The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Guest pianist Leon Fleisher and the Pro Arte Quartet will give a FREE performance of the Piano Quintet by Brahms at noon on Oct. 6.

September 7, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

You heard it here first.

Here is a date to save  and then spread the word:

The Ear hears that famed pianist and teacher Leon Fleisher (below top in a photo by Chris Hartlove) will perform a FREE concert with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below bottom in a photo by Rick Langer) at noon on Thursday, Oct. 6, in Mills Hall.

Intl_Piano_LF1120.pdf

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The program features a dramatic and lyrical masterpiece, the Piano Quintet in F Minor by Johannes Brahms. (You can hear Leon Fleisher perform the third movement, the lively Scherzo with a lovely Trio, of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Emerson String Quartet in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

More details are forthcoming.

The Ear has been told that Fleisher, 88 and retired from the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the Pro Arte are doing this as a gesture of thanks to all supporters of the quartet, which several years ago celebrated its centennial and is the longest-lived string quartet in history.

Fleisher was an acclaimed and prize-winning pianist whose career was thwarted by focal dystonia in his right hand, which made him play and perform only with his left hand.

For a decade now, he has recovered and been performing with two hands and often with his pianist wife. They performed several seasons ago at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The Pro Arte Quartet holds a special place in his affection.

About a decade ago, Fleisher performed the same Brahms work with the Pro Arte. Fleisher’s main teacher, the legendary Artur Schnabel, performed and recorded works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Robert Schumann, Antonin Dvorak and others with the Pro Arte Quartet back in the 1930s.


Classical music: Cellist Amit Peled celebrates historical mentor Pablo Casals with Casals’ own cello. Peled performs this Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

March 16, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

There is much to look forward to during this Friday night’s MUST-HEAR “Masterworks” concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its longtime music director Andrew Sewell.

But clearly the big draw is the Israeli-born cellist Amit Peled (below), who is a now a very successful teacher at the Peabody Conservatory that is attached to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and who also tours the globe performing.

Amit Peled playing

The concert is at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

Tickets cost $15, $37, $62 and $65. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Amit Peled has played here with the WCO before, and he showed then that his talent is as big as he is, a 6’5” man who projects a big presence physically and musically.

But Peled is also a congenial, humorous and curious musician who knows how to find an unusual angle, a new take on old music.

As an homage, Peled recently recreated a century later a concert by Pablo Casals, who remains perhaps the most famous and influential cellist in history, by performing the same program.

Pablo Casals BIG USE

The program included a solo suite by Johann Sebastian Bach since it was Casals who first discovered them and then who convinced the experts and the public that they were not exercises but genuine gorgeous music.

It also included a Catalan folk song, “The Song of the Birds,” which Casals himself arranged and frequently performed as an anthem to the need for freedom from Nazism and Fascism for his homeland. In fact it became a signature of Casals, and Peled will perform the same piece here.

Moreover, Peled performed this concert on Casal’s own cello, a superb 1733 Goffriller instrument, which Peled got on loan from Casals’ widow and which he had restored. (You can hear Amit Peled talk about and play the famed Casals cello in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

And that is the same cello he will bring to his date in Madison.

Here is a link to a story – two conjoined stories really — that NPR (National Public Radio) did about Peled and the Casals cello.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/02/11/385240526/what-it-means-to-play-pablo-casals-cello

Amit Peled 1

On the same cello, Peled will also perform the “Tarantella” by David Popper – another favorite of Casals — and the rarely played Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann (below), a late work written as the composer was descending into the mental illness that would eventually claim his life.

Schumann photo1850

Adding to the concert’s appeal are two other works.

One is the penultimate symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below), the dark, dramatic and appealing Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550.

Mozart old 1782

The performance by the WCO (below top) should be a lively treat, given the complete mastery of the Classical-era style that conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) continues to demonstrate.

WCO lobby

andrewsewell

Another attraction is the Suite for String Orchestra by Frank Bridge (below), who was the teacher of famed 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten. And if you have heard Sewell, who originally hails from New Zealand, you know he has a way for finding neglected repertoire and possesses a special fondness of and talent for performing British works.

Frank Bridge

For more information about the WCO and this concert, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-iv

And here is a link to Amit Peled’s website, where you can find more information including reviews, recordings, biographical facts and more:

http://www.amitpeled.com


Classical music: University of Wisconsin percussion group Clocks in Motion will give a FREE concert of unusual new music, including the world premiere of the winner of its first composing contest, this Sunday afternoon. Plus, on Saturday a harpsichord recital of Baroque masters will be given at the First Unitarian Society.

February 13, 2014
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ALERT: This Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the historic Meeting House at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, Stephen Alltop of Northwestern University will give a harpsichord recital. The program features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (Toccata in E minor, Preludes and Fugues in D major and D minor from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I), Domenico Scarlatti (two sonatas), Jean-Philippe Rameau (Suite in A Minor), Franz Joseph Haydn (Sonata No. 6 in G Major) and George Frideric Handel (Suite in G Minor). A free will offering will be taken. 

Stephen Alltop harpsichord

By Jacob Stockinger

Clocks in Motion, Madison’s cutting-edge new music ensemble, will present Unfamiliar Voices 1.0, an expansive program featuring music from both the heart of the established percussion ensemble literature and the forefront of modern percussion composition. 

The FREE performance is this coming Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. in Mils Hall. It will celebrate composer and UW-Madison student Ben Davis, the 2014 Clocks in Motion Call for Scores winner, with the world premiere of his exciting new work, “Night.”

The ensemble will also perform the meditative percussion quartet, “Threads,” by Paul Lansky and the grand percussion sextet, “Kryptogramma,” by Georges Aperghis.

clocks in motion in concert

Ben Davis (below), a composer, trumpeter and teacher from Richmond, Virginia, writes for unique instruments built by Clocks in Motion. His new work employs sixxen — large aluminum keyboard instruments that are tuned microtonally (vastly different from the standard repeating 12-tone scale in most western music).

ben davis

The three sets of sixxen (below, in the foreground with other percussion instruments) in the piece are purposefully out of tune with each other, creating an entrancing sound cloud of beading frequencies for the listener.  In contrast, the other three players in the piece each play a bombastic multi-percussion setup of tom toms, snare drums, kick drums, and china cymbals.  Davis’ innovative work is sure to impress.

sixxen ensemble foreground-1

Paul Lansky (below) shares some insightful thoughts on his 2005 work: “Threads… is a half-hour long ‘cantata’ for percussion quartet in ten short movements. (You can hear it at the bottom in a YouTube video performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.)

Adds Lansky: “There are three “threads” that are interwoven in the piece: Arias and Preludes that focus on the metallic pitched sounds of vibraphones, glockenspiel and pipes; Choruses in which drumming predominates; and Recitatives made largely from John Cage-like noise instruments, bottles, flower pots, crotales, etc. The aim of the different threads is to highlight the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, and weave them into one continuous ‘thread.’ The movements are performed without interruption.”

paul lansky

Georges Aperghis’ 1970 composition “Kryptogramma” is a massive undertaking. Puzzling instrumental combinations and bizarre rhythmic structures make this one of the most fascinating and complex percussion ensemble works ever written.

“Kryptogramma” means “concealed text/writing”.  In the  words of composer Aperghis (below): “Every cyptogram [in the piece] conceals a text or number sequence, behind which information is hidden…simple rhythms…are developed in a tapestry of soaring movements, and…subjected to a mass of variation.”

georges aperghis

Clocks in Motion members are Dave Alcorn, Jennifer Hedstrom, Sean Kleve, Michael Koszewski James McKenzie, and Joseph Murfin.  For the concert on Feb. 16, Clocks in Motion will welcome percussionists Vincent Mingils and Somali Wilson as guest performers.

All performers are either current or former students of the UW-Madison percussion studio.

Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (ClevelandClassical.com), Clocks in Motion is a group that performs new music, builds rare instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

Formed in 2011, the ensemble is currently in residence at the University of Wisconsin School of Music.  The individual members of Clocks in Motion’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of musical styles including, rock, jazz, contemporary classical music, orchestral percussion, marching percussion, and world music styles.

Among its many recent engagements, the group served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Rhapsody Arts Center, University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Admission is free. For more information, including repertoire, upcoming events, biographies, and media, visit http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com.

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Classical music: How do concert pianists practice? Stephen Hough offers tips.

October 19, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

So much of playing the piano – or any instrument or indeed any performing art -– boils down to practicing. Specifically, that means how to practice correctly, how to practice productively.

practice room and piano

Recently, I blogged about a wonderfully useful story that appeared on NPR’s terrific classical music blogDeceptive Cadence” about 10 tips for successful practicing. (It also some  interesting reader suggestions and tips that you should read.)

Here is a link to that posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/classical-music-here-are-10-tips-from-npr-on-how-to-improve-your-practicing/

cello practice

From a slightly different perspective, British pianist Stephen Hough (below) more recently blogged about how professional concerts pianists practice. He included some great tips from his own teachers.

Hough_Stephen_color16

Now, Hough is not only a concert pianist but also an exceptional one. In addition, he is an excellent teacher, as I witnessed firsthand several years ago when he gave a master class at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. (At the bottom is a YouTube video of a master class Hough gave on Liszt at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.)

And not for nothing was he the first instrumentalist to receive a MacArthur “genius award.” This multi-talented man – who is openly gay and who converted to Roman Catholicism at 19 — composes music, created a special app for Franz Liszt‘s Sonata in B Minor and writes extremely insightful and intelligent blogs for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and website in the United Kingdom on many different subjects. And he still finds time to be a globe-trotting, award-winning, much-in-demand concert pianist with dozens of recordings to his credit.

hough

So here is a recent entry that of Hough’s talking about the DO’s and DON’Ts of how professional concert pianists – with limited time for practicing – go about the tricky but absolutely vital business of practicing.

It is an article that Hough wrote for the November/December issue of International Piano magazine. And it adds to the many other blog posts he has done about learning how to play the piano. (You can use a search engine o his site to check out other ones.)

The Ear hopes you find it as helpful and engaging as he did:

Here is a link:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100070997/the-practice-of-practising/

Do you have any practicing suggestions?

The Ear want to hear.


Classical music Q&A: It is time to rediscover composer Luigi Boccherini, says acclaimed cellist Amit Peled, who on Friday night will perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which he calls “one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S.”

January 11, 2012
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UPDATE: The FREE astronomy program this Saturday at the UW Space Place about the Madison Opera‘s production of Philip Glass’ “Galileo” has now been filled. I posted about the program on Monday, if you want to read about it.

By Jacob Stockinger

 The first big concert to kick off the second half of the current concert season in Madison is this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

That is when the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will perform a program of Classical and modern music under the baton of WCO music director Andrew Sewell.

Tickets are $15-$62. Call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141. For more information about the program and tickets, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/26/event-info/

The program is classic Sewell (below), who likes to mix it up and introduce the audience to new works they probably don’t know as well give them a chance to hear a familiar work or composer they love.

This program features a well-known masterpiece, the Symphony No. 100 (“Military”) by Hadyn, one of Sewell’s specialties for which he has been praised. There will also be a work, “Diversions for Sttring Orchestra,” by the 20th century composer Douglas Lilburn (below, 1915-2001) who, like Sewell, hailed from New Zealand.

The program also features an unknown work,  “Kaddish,” based on the Hebrew service for the dead – a kind of Jewish requiem – for cello and strings by the little known contemporary Russian-Israeli composer Mark Kopytman (1929-2011).

And there will be a Cello Concerto by Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), an unjustly neglected composer of the Classical era.

The guest soloist, returning to the WCO for a second time, is the acclaimed cellist Amit Peled (below), who concertizes widely but also teaches at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

His website, which has his biography, reviews of his concerts, his statement about his teaching philosophy, a list of recordings and more, can be found at:

http://www.amitpeled.com/

And here is a long interview with Peled on a website devoted to the cello:

http://www.cello.org/newsletter/articles/peled/peled.htm

Peled, a busy performer and pedagogue, kindly agreed to an interview about his upcoming concert in Madison:

You have played here before. How do you like Madison?

I love Madison. I have been there several times. I have played at the University of Wisconsin and performed with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. It is a little too cold, but I love the town and the people and the restaurants. It is a really nice place.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) is one of the best chamber orchestras in the U.S. Playing with them is literally like playing chamber music. There’s no feeling of accompanying or the group being superior to the soloist.

It has a lot to do with Andrew being in charge. I am looking forward to this concert. I love performing with them. And we will do the same combination of Baroque and Jewish music that we did last time, except that last time the Jewish piece was an encore.

Speaking of Jewish music, what can you tell us about the “Kaddish” by Mark Kopytman?

The piece is not well-known in the U.S. although I have recorded it. I knew the composer (below), who just passed away last month. I worked with him on the piece. There is a direct story line in it that I might be allowed to tell the audience before I play it.

He grew up in Russia and was a big admirer of Shostakovich. it has a lot of Shostakovich. It is a very exciting piece of the orchestra as well. I would think it is probably a Midwest premiere as well as a Madison premiere. I thin the combination of this and Boccherini will be wonderful.

The language is very tonal and accessible. The whole piece is a dialogue between the cello, which is the surviving son, and the orchestra, which is the dead father.

What do you want to say about Boccherini and the concerto?

For cellists, Boccherini (below) is like the Bible. He was a great cellist and wrote 13 concertos for the cello as well as quintets with two cellos that are really gorgeous. But Gruetzmacher, who was a 19th-century cellist, reworked this one in a more Romantic way. For us cellists, it is fun to play because it is even more lyrical and singing, and more demanding technically, than what Boccherini originally wrote. So it has become the most famous of all the Boccherini cello concertos.

Boccherini was an Italian composer who lived in Spain, but his music has the quality of an Italian opera aria all through the piece. It is just gorgeous.

It in the 1950s, everybody played this concerto. (See the Jacqueline du Pre at bottom.) Now it mostly a student piece, though students often find it too difficult technically. So I am happy that Andrew was open to doing it.

It is an exciting piece. Boccherini has been overshadowed by more famous contemporaries such as Haydn and Mozart. But the concerto is a fine piece and it is a pity it is neglected today.

There are wonderful pieces that unfortunately we cellists don’t get to play. Orchestras always want to give audiences the safe cello pieces — the Elgar, Dvorak and Schumann concertos — and not take a chance. In that sense Andrew is very brave to program two pieces that are not played very often. More people should know Boccherini and I hope people will like it.

I hope Boccherini receives a major revival or rediscovery. The best thing I can do is to promote him and play his music. The rest is left to the public and music organizations around the country to give it a chance. I am excited about it.

This week you will also teach students at Middleton High School. How well do performing and teaching go together?

I love the combination of teaching and performing. (Below is Peled with students at the Peabody Institute.) It is great to try to verbalize everything I try to do with the cello to students. But when I teach too much, I miss the playing and when I play too much, I miss the teaching. So it is a good combination for me.


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