By Jacob Stockinger
The end of the first semester is at hand. And this weekend two very appealing concerts will help finish off the first half of the new concert season at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The orchestra and the campus-community chorus will be conducted by Beverly Taylor (below), the director of choral activities at the UW-Madison.
The program of works that are relatively rare on programs includes the Mass in C Major by Ludwig van Beethoven, “Nänie: Song of Lamentation” by Johannes Brahms (heard conducted by Claudio Abbado in the YouTube video below) and the “Chichester Psalms” by Leonard Bernstein.
Admission is $15 for adults; $8 for students.
Here are some notes about the works written by conductor Beverly Taylor:
“The Choral Union will present a 3 B’s concert, which includes masterpieces of three different types.
“The Bernstein “Chichester Psalms,” written in the 1960’s for a cathedral in Britain, is a setting of three psalms in Hebrew. The piece is for strings, brass and percussion, and lasts about 20 minutes. It features a flamboyant, joyful and somewhat dissonant opening full of exciting percussion writing.
“The second movement features a wonderful boy soloist, Simon Johnson, from the Madison Youth Choirs, with harp and strings. He is like the shepherd King David, who is peacefully in the fields with his sheep; contrasting that are the warring peoples, sung by the tenors and basses. The boy and women’s voices return singing peacefully above the warring mobs.
“The third movement starts in dissonant pain, but it dissolves into a beautiful, quiet psalm of praise and trust.
“The Brahms Nänie is a 15-minute setting of a poem by Friedrich Schiller on the topic of beauty and its inability to last; even beauty must die, and the gods weep too, but the beauty itself is worth all! The style is Romantic with the long arching melodic lines for which Brahms is well-known.
“The Beethoven Mass in C is one of just two masses that Beethoven wrote; in contrast to the long, loud, high, grand and overpowering “Missa Solemnis,” the Mass in C is more charming, Mozartean and approachable. It still has some Beethovenian touches of sudden dynamic changes, sforzandi (which are emphases or accents), and slow, elegiac quartets. Our solo quartet will be Anna Polum, Jessica Krasinki, Jiabao Zhang and John Loud.”
For more background and information about how to get tickets, go to:
On this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top), under the baton of James Smith (below bottom, in a photo by Jack Burns), will give a FREE concert.
The program features three works: the late “King Stephan” Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven (heard below in a YouTube video as conducted by Leonard Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic) the “Billy the Kid” Suite by Aaron Copland; and the Symphony No. 4 “Inextinguishable” by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.
The Ear has heard both groups often and highly recommends both concerts.
He was quite amazed at how good the last UW Symphony Orchestra program he heard was. It offered two Fifth Symphonies — by Sergei Prokofiev and Jean Sibelius – only about three weeks into the semester.
It was nothing short of amazing how well the orchestra had come together in such a short time. It was a tight and impassioned performance. The Ear expects the same for this concert, which has had a lot more rehearsal time.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Shannon Farley, viola, with Chris Allen, guitar; Leah King and Jason Kutz, piano; Elspeth Stalter Clouse and Ela Mowinski, violin; Leslie Damaso, mezzo-soprano; and Morgan Walsh, cello. They will perform the Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, by Antonin Dvorak; Three Songs for Mezzo-soprano, viola and piano by Frank Bridge; “Beau Soir” (Beautiful Evening) for guitar and viola by Claude Debussy; and a Romance for violin by Amy Beach as arranged for viola and piano. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
Can the past help us understand and weather the present time with its conflicts and chaos?
In fact her latest album, for the Erato-Warner label, of arias from Baroque operas from the 17th and 18th centuries is dedicated to that proposition. The album’s title is “In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music” (below).
It includes arias from opera by George Frideric Handel (one of which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom), Henry Purcell, Niccolo Jommelli, Leonardo Leo and Claudio Monteverdi, and it features two world premiere recordings as well as familiar works.
She boils much of her viewpoint down to one question: In the widest of chaos, how can you find peace?
Sure seems timely, given foreign wars and domestic political strife.
Here is a link with the interview and some fetching music:
Listen to it.
See what you think.
Then let the rest of us know what you think, and whether you agree or disagree, and whether you have other works that come to mind.
The Ear wants to hear.
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 for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.
By John W. Barker
For eight years, the Madison Summer Choir (below) has been giving an annual concert. This year’s, on Saturday night, under founder and conductor Ben Luedcke, was built around the theme “This is My Song! – Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice.”
And, indeed, Luedcke (below) introduced most of the selections with pointed remarks, addressing issues faced today, and the need for making ours a better world.
The first part of the program began with the “big tune” from Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, set to English words. This was sung a cappella, while the four short items that followed had piano accompaniment.
Two of those pieces—by composers Stephen Chatman and Sven Lekberg—carried poems by Walt Whitman, while another, by Joan Szymko, set a text by Wendell Berry. But the gem of the set was a short partsong, An die Heimat (To my Homeland), by that truly great choral master, Johannes Brahms.
After the intermission, the chorus of 66 voices was joined by an orchestra (below) of 32, for the musical plateau.
Felix Mendelssohn is one of the handful of supreme choral composers (think of his oratorio Elijah!). As a warmer-upper, we were given his brief setting of Martin Luther’s translation of the Latin Dona nobis pacem as Verleih uns Frieden (Grant us Peace). (You can hear Mendelssohn’s beautiful “Verleih uns Frieden” in a YouTube video at the bottom)
But the true main event was a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s unfairly neglected cantata, Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night). This sets a ballad by Goethe portraying a band of Druids arranging to celebrate a holy solstice rite in the face of newly triumphant Christian intolerance. By making an unholy racket, they drive away their persecutors and launch the myth of St. Walburga’s Night (Walpurgisnacht, on April 30) as an occasion of Satanic rumpus (think Goethe’s and Gounod’s Faust).
The work calls for three solo singers (below), this time contralto Jessica Timman Schwefel, tenor Dan O’Dea, and baritone Ben Li (of whom the tenor was the most impressive). This score is one of striking dramatic effect and musical force, but it is too brief to find a place in most concert repertoire.
Singers and players threw themselves into it with wonderful gusto under propulsive direction. We must thank Luedcke for giving us a rare chance to enjoy it.
The final piece was a movement from a choral symphony by Srul Irving Glick: making a truly splendid choral sound that, however, quite obliterated the uplifting words.
Overall, the program showed that Luedcke had nurtured, in a short time, a choir of nicely balanced and blended voices. With the best of their material, they made a wonderfully glowing sound.
One more example, then, of the quite stunning riches of Madison’s summer musical life!
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features the Madison Flute Club Chamber Ensemble. It will perform music by Phyllis Louke, George Gershwin, Daniel Harrison, Julius Fucik and Ken Kreuser.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Madison Summer Choir (below) has announced this summer’s auditions, rehearsals, program and concert.
The Madison Summer Choir, which was founded by and is directed by UW-Madison alumnus Ben Luedcke and which usually has about 80 voices, meets for six weeks in May and June to prepare major choral and choral-orchestral works.
This year, the featured works on the “This Is My Song: Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice” program, will be “Die erste Walpurgisnacht” (The First Walpurgis Night) and “Verleih uns Frieden” (Grant Us Peace, a beautiful work you can hear in the YouTube video at bottom) by Felix Mendelssohn; “Finlandia,” by Jean Sibelius, and other works by Johannes Brahms ad Sven Lekberg.
Complete information about dates, music, and concert tickets can be found on the website: www.madisonsummerchoir.org
Auditions will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, May 16 and 17, when the first rehearsals begin. Auditions will take place in UW-Madison Humanities Building, Room 1351, 455 N Park St, Madison WI 53706.
Weekly rehearsals – WHICH START ON THE MAY 16 TIME — will be held weekly on the same days and times.
Returning summer choir members and members of auditioned ensembles in the area do NOT need to audition. Those who need to audition should contact the conductor. The contact email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The concert will be in Mills Hall on Saturday, June 25, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
A REMINDER: Subscribers to the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s current season that just ended have until May 5 — this Thursday — to renew and save their current seats. New subscribers can receive up to 50 percent off and other discounts are available. For more about the programs of the 2016-17 season and about subscribing, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following notice from the Madison Youth Choirs about three concerts this coming weekend:
On this Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, 2016, in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center for the Arts, the young singers of Madison Youth Choirs (below, at the winter concert in 2014) will bring to life the musical creations of several groups who have left their homelands throughout history, under a variety of circumstances.
How do we keep our traditions in a place where they may not be tolerated? How do we maintain our identities in the face of great change? How do we preserve our stories and our history for future generations?
We invite you to ponder these questions with us as we explore the rich choral work of the African-American, Indian, Cuban, Arabic, Irish, Jewish and additional musical traditions as well as several works based on the biblical diaspora as told in Psalm 137.
At the Saturday evening performance, MYC will also present the Carrel Pray Music Educator of the Year Award to Dan Krunnfusz (below), former artistic director and conductor of the Madison Boychoir and a longtime choral and general music teacher in Madison and Baraboo public schools.
Saturday, May 7, 2016, 7 p.m.: Boychoirs
Sunday, May 8, 2016, 3:30 p.m. Girl choirs; 7:30 p.m. High School Ensembles
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students ages 8-18. Children 7 and under receive free admission but a physical ticket is required for entry. AUDIENCE MEMBERS WILL NEED A SEPARATE TICKET FOR EACH CONCERT.
Tickets are available through Overture Center Box Office, and may be acquired in person at 201 State Street, Madison; via phone at (608) 258 – 4141; or online at http://www.overturecenter.org/events/sounds-like-home-music-in-diaspora
This project is generously supported by American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, the Green Bay Packers Foundation, the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, the Madison Community Foundation, the Madison Gas and Electric Foundation, the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, and Dane Arts with additional funding from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation. This project is also supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, see below in a photo by Jon Harlow on its tour to an international festival in Scotland in 2014): 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.
Here is the repertoire of the MYC 2016 Spring Concert Series “Sounds Like Home: Music in Diaspora”
Saturday, May 7, 2016, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts
7 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Boychoirs)
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child…Traditional spiritual, arr. Burleigh
Hashivenu…Traditional Hebrew, arr. Rao
Rolling Down to Rio…Edward German
The Minstrel Boy…Traditional Irish, arr. Benjamin Britten
Super Flumina Babylonis…Giacomo Carissimi
Duke’s Place…Duke Ellington, arr. Swiggum/Ross
As by the Streams of Babylon…Thomas Campion
A Miner’s Life…Traditional Irish, arr. Houston
Combined Boychoirs (below, in a photo by Joanie Crump)
The Riflemen of Bennington…Traditional, arr. Swiggum
Sunday, May 8, 2016, Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts
3:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring MYC Girlchoirs, below in a photo by Karen Brown)
Beidh Aonach Amarach…Traditional Irish, arr. Dwyer
Ani Ma’amin…Traditional Hebrew, arr. Caldwell/Ivory
Gospel Train…Traditional spiritual, arr. Shirley McRae
Alhamdoulillah…Traditional Arabic, arr. Laura Hawley
Folksong arrangements (2, 3, 4)…Gideon Klein
Hope is the Thing with Feathers…Marye Helms
Wild Mountain Thyme…Traditional Irish, arr. Jay Broeker
Stadt und Land in stille Ruh…Traditional German canon
Mi’kmaq Honor Song….arr. Lydia Adams
Thou Shalt Bring Them In…..G.F. Handel
Iraqi Peace Song…..Lori Tennenhouse
Bring Me Little Water, Silvy…..credited to Leadbelly, arr. Moira Smiley
Capriccio, Cantilena, and Cantabile
Across the Water (world premiere)… UW-Madison alumnus Scott Gendel (below)
7:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring High School Ensembles)
We Are…Ysaye Barnwell
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child…Traditional spiritual
Jai Bhavani…arr. Ethan Sperry
Hej, Igazitsad…Lajos Bardos
An Wasserflüssen Babylon…Michael Praetorius
Uz mne kone vyvadeji (from folksong arrangements)…Gideon Klein
Son de Camaguey…Traditional Cuban, arr. Stephen Hatfield
Loch Lomond…Traditional Scottish air, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams
In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles (from Alarcón Madrigals)…Roger Bourland
Barchuri Le’an Tisa…Gideon Klein
Kafal Sviri…Traditional Bulgarian, arr. Liondev
Cantabile and Ragazzi
O, What a Beautiful City…Traditional spiritual, arr. Shawn Kirchner
By Jacob Stockinger
Concerts of chamber music by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society aren’t the only classical music events happening this weekend.
This week has also seen the annual National Summer Cello Institute (NSCI), which features master classes and performances plus sessions about using Feldenkrais Method and relaxation techniques to best employ one’s physical body to make music through the cello.
For more information about the Institute, here is a link to its home website:
Here is a link to a previous post about the Institute on this blog:
A fine musician and good friend of the blog, Professor Uri Vardi (below) teaches cello at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Along with his wife Hagit Vardi and some others, Uri Vardi runs the NSCI and sent this message:
The 2014 National Summer Cello Institute is ending on this Saturday, June 14, with a public FREE concert in Mills Hall at 8 p.m.
The concert will include “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 (with soprano Anna Whiteway, below top) and No. 1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Both pieces will be played by the NSCI Cello Choir, conducted by Professor James Smith (below bottom) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
The program will also include new music: two movements of a “Requiem for 6 Cellos and Double Bass” by former NSCI participant (and future UW-Madison Master’s of Music student) Kyle B. Price in memory of his aunt Connie Barrett (a 2010 NSCI participant).
I hope you will be willing to let your blog audience know about this.”
Vardi also took part this past season in a Fusions Continuum Concert that mixed the Western cello and the lute-derived Arabic oud (below) with the purpose of using different kinds of art music to promote peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
Adds Vardi: “Also, I thought you might be interested in a 17-minute YouTube clip of Fusions Continuum:”