By Jacob Stockinger
This posting is both a news story and a holiday gift guide of classical recordings you might like to give or get.
It features the classical music nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards that were just announced this past week.
As you can see, several years ago, the recording industry decided that the Grammys should put more emphasis on new music and contemporary composers as well as on less famous performers and smaller labels as well as less well-known artists and works. You don’t see any music by Bach, Beethoven or Brahms this year, although you will find music by Mozart, Handel, Schumann and Dvorak. And clearly this is not a Mahler year
The winners will be announced on a live TV broadcast on Sunday night, Feb. 12, on CBS.
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” — Mark Donahue & Fred Vogler, engineers (James Conlon, Guanqun Yu, Joshua Guerrero, Patricia Racette, Christopher Maltman, Lucy Schaufer, Lucas Meachem, LA Opera Chorus & Orchestra)
“Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’Instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement” — Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers (Ludovic Morlot, Augustin Hadelich & Seattle Symphony)
“Reflections” — Morten Lindberg, engineer (Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene)
“Shadow of Sirius” — Silas Brown & David Frost, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Jerry F. Junkin & the University Of Texas Wind Ensemble)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow: Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” — Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Andris Nelsons & Boston Symphony Orchestra)
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin
Judith Sherman (pictured below with the Grammy Award she won last year. She came to Madison to record the double set of new commissions for the centennial of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet)
Robina G. Young
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
“Bates: Works for Orchestra” — Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony). You can hear excerpts in the YouTube video at the bottom.
“Ibert: Orchestral Works” — Neeme Järvi, conductor (Orchestre De La Suisse Romande)
“Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 In B-Flat Major, Op. 100” — Mariss Jansons, conductor (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra)
“Rouse: Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms” — Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)
“Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow – Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9” (below) — Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)
BEST OPERA RECORDING
“Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles” (below) — James Conlon, conductor; Joshua Guerrero, Christopher Maltman, Lucas Meachem, Patricia Racette, Lucy Schaufer & Guanqun Yu; Blanton Alspaugh, producer (LA Opera Orchestra; LA Opera Chorus)
“Handel: Giulio Cesare” — Giovanni Antonini, conductor; Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Andreas Scholl & Anne-Sofie von Otter; Samuel Theis, producer (Il Giardino Armonico)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Emily Fons, Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard & Jay Hunter Morris; Elizabeth Ostrow, producer (The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra; Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program for Singers)
“Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro” — Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Thomas Hampson, Christiane Karg, Luca Pisaroni & Sonya Yoncheva; Daniel Zalay, producer (Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Vocalensemble Rastatt)
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
“Himmelrand” — Elisabeth Holte, conductor (Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ragnfrid Lie & Matilda Sterby; Inger-Lise Ulsrud; Uranienborg Vokalensemble)
“Janáček: Glagolitic Mass” — Edward Gardner, conductor; Håkon Matti Skrede, chorus master (Susan Bickley, Gábor Bretz, Sara Jakubiak & Stuart Skelton; Thomas Trotter; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Bergen Cathedral Choir, Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Choir of Collegium Musicum & Edvard Grieg Kor)
“Lloyd: Bonhoeffer” — Donald Nally, conductor (Malavika Godbole, John Grecia, Rebecca Harris & Thomas Mesa; the Crossing; below)
“Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Volume 1” — Krzysztof Penderecki, conductor; Henryk Wojnarowski, choir director (Nikolay Didenko, Agnieszka Rehlis & Johanna Rusanen; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic Choir)
“Steinberg: Passion Week” — Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)
BEST CHAMBER MUSIC/SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
“Fitelberg: Chamber Works” — ARC Ensemble
“Reflections” — Øyvind Gimse, Geir Inge Lotsberg & Trondheimsolistene
“Serious Business” — Spektral Quartet
“Steve Reich” — Third Coast Percussion (below)
“Trios From Our Homelands” — Lincoln Trio
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
“Adams, J.: Scheherazade.2” — Leila Josefowicz; David Robertson, conductor (Chester Englander; St. Louis Symphony)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Zuill Bailey; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor (Nashville Symphony)
“Dvořák: Violin Concerto & Romance; Suk: Fantasy” — Christian Tetzlaff; John Storgårds, conductor (Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)
“Mozart: Keyboard Music, Vols. 8 & 9” – Kristian Bezuidenhout
“1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2” – Gil Shaham; Stéphane Denève, conductor (The Knights & Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra)
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
“Monteverdi” — Magdalena Kožená; Andrea Marcon, conductor (David Feldman, Michael Feyfar, Jakob Pilgram & Luca Tittoto; La Cetra Barockorchester Basel)
“Mozart: The Weber Sisters” — Sabine Devieilhe; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Pygmalion)
“Schumann & Berg” — Dorothea Röschmann; Mitsuko Uchida, accompanist
“Shakespeare Songs” — Ian Bostridge; Antonio Pappano, accompanist (Michael Collins, Elizabeth Kenny, Lawrence Power & Adam Walker)
“Verismo” — Anna Netrebko; Antonio Pappano, conductor (Yusif Eyvazov; Coro Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia; Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia)
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway; American Gothic; Once Upon A Castle” — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer
“Gesualdo” — Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Manfred Eicher, producer
“Vaughan Williams: Discoveries” — Martyn Brabbins, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer
“Wolfgang: Passing Through” — Judith Farmer & Gernot Wolfgang, producers; (Various Artists)
“Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites” — Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Frank Filipetti & Gail Zappa, producers
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
“Bates: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology” — Mason Bates, composer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
“Daugherty: Tales of Hemingway” — Michael Daugherty, composer (Zuill Bailey, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
“Higdon: Cold Mountain” — Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist (Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Jay Hunter Morris, Emily Fons, Isabel Leonard, Nathan Gunn & the Santa Fe Opera)
“Theofanidis: Bassoon Concerto” — Christopher Theofanidis, composer (Martin Kuuskmann, Barry Jekowsky & Northwest Sinfonia)
“Winger: Conversations With Nijinsky” — C. F. Kip Winger, composer (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra)
ALERT 1: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Sarah Gillespie, French horn, and Susan Gaeddert, piano, in music by women composers: Fanny Hansel, Clara Schumann, Kay Gardner and Andrea Clearfield. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
ALERT 2: The Hunt Quartet, made up of UW-Madison graduate students, will perform a FREE concert at the Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound Street, on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
The program includes the String Quartet No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev, the String Quartet in G Major Op. 77, No. 1, by Franz Joseph Haydn, the “Langsamer Satz” (Slow Movement) by Anton Webern.
The string quartet is a joint community outreach project of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and is funded by Kato Perlman. It plays at many local schools. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/hunt-quartet/
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has been asked to post the following information:
It’s the 20th anniversary of Madison Area Concert Handbells (MACH) and we’re celebrating!
Our Bells of Christmas concerts will feature some best-loved pieces from the past along with exciting new ones that will showcase our ringers’ and soloists’ talents. MACH’s founder and Director Emerita, Susan Udell (below, front center with baton), will be conducting the December concerts to bring an air of fun-filled nostalgia and continuing excellence to our programs.
Performances are on Friday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Middleton Performing Arts Center (bel0w), 2100 Bristol Street, Middleton. The center adjoins Middleton High School.
There is another performance on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, 5700 Pheasant Hill Road, in Monona.
Tickets in advance are $12 for adults and $9 for students 16 and under; and $9 for seniors; at the door, tickets are $15 and $12 respectively.
Advance tickets are available at Cool Beans Coffee Café, Ward-Brodt Music, Metcalfe’s Market at Hilldale, and Orange Tree Imports.
Advance tickets can also be ordered. Go to http://www.madisonhandbells.org
To pay with check or money order, you can order by mail — please print an order form and mail with payment to MACH. Advance ticket prices apply.
Group tickets (10 or more) can be ordered in advance for $10 per person, whether adult, student or senior. These are not available at the door; to order, please print an order form and mail with payment (check or money order)
Here are program notes written by Susan Udell:
“The Bells of Christmas” opens with the timely reminder that Christmas is Coming before an array of pieces that unfold the events of Christ’s birth. “Wake, Awake,” a stirring arrangement of Philipp Nicolai’s “Wachet Auf,” is replete with giant chords, flowing passages, and the resonance of bass chimes as the city of Jerusalem is made aware of the Savior’s importance.
Next, an arrangement of the 17th century French tune “Picardy,” “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” features mysterious random ringing of bells and hand chimes while the melody is intoned. This evolves into a burst of fiery 16th-note passages and a maestoso statement of the tune before subsiding into the sound of silence punctuated by random chimes once more.
A lively Caribbean tune, “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy,” arranged by one of the handbell world’s top composers and arrangers, Hart Morris, gives a change of pace with its syncopation and moments of percussive instruments.
The noted English composer John Rutter’s “Angels’ Carol” follows, sung by our favorite guest vocalist from the past, Carrie Ingebritsen, and our own Rachel Bain; their voices blend beautifully with a liquid handbell accompaniment to give the angels’ message from that long-ago night.
Another favorite soloist, Barbara Roberts, takes the leading part in an excerpt from Benedetto Marcello’s sonata for flute that has been combined in a Gigue with “Forest Green”, an alternate tune for “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” A bell tree duet of “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” follows, played by MACH members Caitlin Ristow and Karen Paschke.
Then it’s time for an audience sing-along in Christmas Carol Fest III. “How Great Our Joy” closes the first half of the concert with variations on the carol “While By My Sheep” and then another opportunity for the audience to sing as “Joy to the World” affirms the events that occurred in Bethlehem so long ago.
After a brief intermission, renowned handbell composer Cynthia Dobrinski‘s arrangement of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” brings sobering and dramatic music that climaxes in a joyful affirmation that, despite all, God will prevail. Carrie Ingebritsen will help illuminate what the music portrays as she sings the verses accompanied by the bells. (You can hear a sample of Cynthia Dobrinski’s music for handbells in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
An energetic “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” follows, based on tunes by Louis Bourgeois and George Frideric Handel, also arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski. Next, her arrangement of “On Christmas Night All Children Sing” (Sussex Carol) brings us to a light-hearted celebration of the holiday as seen through the eyes of children.
Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky’s famed “Nutcracker Suite” is then represented as our MACH ringers present a challenging, full-bodied arrangement of its March as transcribed by noted handbell composer William Griffin.
Former MACH member, Janet Rutkowski, returns as handbell soloist for “The Tin Soldier,” an amusing rendition of that well-known tune. Then the ever-popular “Up on the Housetop” details the gifts children anticipate at Christmas and depicts Santa’s arrival, descent of the chimney, and filling of stockings before he departs in a flash of sound.
Our concert concludes with a joyful, foot-stomping “Caroler’s Hoedown,” created and arranged by Valerie Stephenson, who received her graduate degree in composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison many years ago.
We hope you will join our 20th year’s celebration by attending one of our concerts. We will recognize past ringers and Board of Directors members in our programs as a special tribute of thanks for their support over the years.
By Jacob Stockinger
This is the time of the academic year, the end of a semester, when performers and venues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music really get a workout.
Take this weekend and especially this coming Sunday, which features seven events.
There will be two popular Winter Choral Concerts at Luther Memorial Church, 1026 University Avenue (below, in 2014) plus performances by the Concert Band and University Bands and a couple of recitals by students. Mills Hall, Morphy Hall and Music Hall will all be in use.
Here is a link to the full Sunday schedule with information about the many concerts, but which, unfortunately, does NOT include programs for the choral concerts and a band concert:
This Friday and Saturday are also busy, though less so.
At 4 p.m. in Room 2441 of the Mosse Humanities Building is a FREE public colloquium about the pioneering Romantic French composer Hector Berlioz (below).
Here is a description by the presenter, Professor Francesca Brittan of Case Western Reserve University:
“Against Melody: Neology, Revolution, and Berliozian Fantasy.”
“Complaints levied against Hector Berlioz’s music during his lifetime (and after) were many: deafening, terrifying, “too literary,” “too imitative.” But by far the most pervasive anxiety voiced by critics revolved around Berlioz’s illegibility. In particular, his music was ungrammatical, failing to adhere to the rules of syntax, the tenets of “proper” melody, and the laws of rhythm.
“These were not just idle or irritated complaints but urgent ones, linked by 19th-century critics to fears of social unraveling and even revolutionary violence. Berlioz’s musico-linguistic perversion, as one reviewer put it, was tantamount to Jacobinism. This strand of the criticism began in earnest with the “Symphonie fantastique,” a work that usually claims our attention for its orchestrational innovations and autobiographical resonances.
“In this talk, I redirect attention to the symphony’s syntax, arguing that melodic-linguistic deformation was at the heart of the work’s radicalism. I link Berlioz’s notions of “natural” grammar (borrowed in part from Victor Hugo) to notions of “natural” sound, and the “natural” rights of man. More broadly, I examine relationships among grammar, revolution, and 19th-century fantasy, between musical neology and the Berliozian imaginary.”
The event is funded by the University Lectures Anonymous Fund.
For more about Francesca Brittan (below) go to:
At 6:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, a student brass quintet will perform a FREE concert of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Malcolm Arnold, Kevin McKee and Victor Ewald. Performers are Nicole Gray, Brandi Pease, Kirsten Haukness, Hayden Victor and Michael Madden.
At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE public master class with David Wakefield (below), a former member of the American Brass Quintet who now teaches at The Hartt School. Sorry, no program of works to be played.
At 8:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall is a FREE graduate student concert of chamber music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rayna Slavova is a second-year Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) student in collaborative piano, studying with professor Martha Fischer.
The all-Mozart program includes the Violin Sonata in F, K. 376, with Biffa Kwok, violin (an excerpt, played by Hilary Hahn, can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); the Piano Duo Sonata in C, K 521, with Alberto Pena, piano; and the Piano Quintet in E flat, K 452, with Juliana Mesa, bassoon, Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet, and Dafydd Bevil, horn.
At 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Strings – made up of talented non-music majors — will play a FREE concert. Sorry, no news about the program.
At 4 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall is a FREE Fall concert by the Flute Studio at the UW-Madison. Sorry, no word about the program or players.
At 8:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital in a FREE recital by Seth Bixler who is a senior violinist studying with Professor Soh-Hyun Altino. He will perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Peter Tchaikovsky and Eugene Ysaye.
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
The holiday shopping has started with a Black Friday that set records for on-line sales — more than $3 billion or an increase of 11 percent over last year, according to news reports.
And this coming Cyber Monday is supposed to be even bigger, setting more records.
Over the next several weeks, The Ear will feature several holiday gifts guides, including the upcoming Grammy Award nominations and lists of the year’s top recordings from Gramophone magazine, National Public Radio (NPR) and other media outlets.
The Ear will also offer some of his own ideas, although he thinks it is pointless to single out the “best,” given so many choices, and will feature instead things that gave him – and might give you or the recipient – special pleasure.
Anyway, here is the 2016 holiday gift guide for classical music from critics for The New York Times.
Once again, the emphasis is on boxed sets, which have become more widespread and even more of a bargain as streaming becomes increasingly popular. One expensive set features Mozart’s complete works and runs almost $500 – or about only $2 a disc.
The list features tried-and-true classics and also more contemporary music and new music. It seems big on opera and orchestral works especially, but offers precious little chamber music or early music.
Read it and decide for yourself how useful it is.
Here is a link:
If you have gift ideas of your own, or reactions to these suggestions, leave your thoughts in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2016.
Music is such a integral part of Thanksgiving Day, from hymns and songs, solo music and chamber music, symphonies and oratorios.
Today, Wisconsin Public Radio — on both the Ideas Network and the News and Classical Music Network — will feature a lot of music and informative shows, all with the theme of Thanksgiving and giving thanks.
Here is the announcement from WPR, which keeps many of us in classical music year-round:
“Wisconsin Public Radio has prepared a variety of food, music and entertainment programs to keep you and your guests engaged this Thanksgiving.
“Turkey is the star of the show on America’s Test Kitchen Radio Thanksgiving Special, 10 a.m. on WPR’s Ideas Network stations. Host Bridget Lancaster is promising a tender, juicy, perfect turkey with all the trimmings, dessert and a dash of fun that will make you a Thanksgiving rock star.
At 11 a.m., Lancaster changes her apron and joins Lynne Rossetto Kasper for more tips on the Ideas Network with the Splendid Table’s Turkey Confidential. This live two-hour Thanksgiving Day tradition returns to take listener calls for culinary help.
In the kitchen this year you’ll also find Mario Batali, Francis Lam, Melissa Clark and Chris Thile, the new host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” sharing fun and helpful advice for the novice, and the experienced, Thanksgiving home cook.
After the feast, you may be in the mood for a good story. How about ten of them? Starting at 1 p.m. the Ideas Network presents Best of the Best: Third Coast Audio Festival Winners. With more than 500 entries from around the world, you’ll hear the ten best that will intrigue, inform and inspire you.
While the Ideas Network serves up helpful advice and engaging stories, WPR’s NPR News & Classical Music Network delivers a generous helping of music for you to enjoy throughout the day.
At 10 a.m., tune in for this year’s Wisconsin School Music Association Honors Concerts (below). The two-hour music special highlights top performances of students from across the state. Middle school and high school choirs and orchestra will be featured.
“It’s one of the highlights of the year with some of our state’s most talented young performers,” said WPR’s News & Classical Music Network Director Peter Bryant.
Then, at 1 p.m. join host John Birge and his special guest, legendary Chef Jacques Pepin as they share conversation and music on Giving Thanks: A Celebration of Fall, Food and Gratitude.
Here is a link to the WPR website with program guides and playlists:
But you might also be interested to stream some other music. WQXR, the famed classical music radio station in New York City, has put together the Top 5 musical expressions — including the famous Sacred Song of Thanksgiving from a late string quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven — of giving thanks. The website has audio and visual performances of the works that you can stream.
Here is a link:
And if you have other ideas about music that is appropriate for Thanksgiving this year – perhaps a composer or work you give special thanks for — please leave them in the COMMENT section, preferably with a YouTube link if possible.
The Ear wants to hear.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
By Jacob Stockinger
By Larry Wells
In the past few years I’ve seen Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” set in the Spanish Civil War, Wagner’s Ring cycle re-imagined as the history of cinema, and Puccini’s “Turandot” presented as a performance by a traveling circus.
Thus, Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’ set in 1930’s Hollywood seemed a reasonable reinterpretation, and so it proved at its final performance Tuesday evening by University Opera.
“Falstaff,” drawn from three plays by Shakespeare, is Verdi’s final opera and a rare comedy. More importantly, gone are his familiar forms of a recitative followed by an aria with lots of oom-pa-pa orchestral accompaniment, now replaced with a conversational style that to me shows Wagner’s influence. It just doesn’t sound like Verdi, but it certainly sounds good.
I felt that the whole evening was a triumph.
The sets were beautifully dressed, the costumes were excellent and the lighting was effective.
The UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith, played wonderfully, although from where I sat the sound was occasionally muffled.
Thank goodness a new music building is being built, and I trust that there will be a theater within it that will accommodate operatic performances. The current Music Hall has its limitations, one being that much of the orchestra was playing underneath the stage and another being that for some reason the theater’s temperature cannot be controlled. It was stiflingly hot during the performance.
As for the singing and acting, the cast I saw was uniformly strong. Falstaff, performed by UW-Madison faculty member Paul Rowe (below), was very robust and was particularly affecting during his act III soliloquy. The Ear mentioned to me his Oliver Hardy mannerisms, and once I noticed that I was constantly amused.
Yanzelmalee Rivera as Alice was hilarious in her seduction scene and really came alive in Act III. Courtney Kayser as Meg was a compelling comic actress. Rebecca Buechel’s Mistress Quickly was an equally adept comic actress and had an excellent voice. Emily Weaver as Nannetta was a beautiful singer who shone in her third act moments as Queen of the Fairies. These four women had some outstanding ensemble moments, and I was constantly diverted by their antics as they outwitted the men.
Among the hapless male characters, Brian Schneider was a standout as Ford and the deep voice of Benjamin Schultz (below left, with Paul Rowe and Jiabao Zhang) made the minor character Pistola noticeable whenever he was on stage.
But the voice of the evening belonged to tenor José Daniel Muñiz (below right) as Fenton. He excelled not only in his solo moments but blended extremely well with his paramour Nannetta (Claire Powling, below left).
The outstanding ensemble work exhibited throughout the opera culminated in the grand fugue at the end of the opera, and the nearly full-house audience was blown away by those final moments. (You can hear the fugal finale, conducted by Sir George Solti, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
The 1930’s Hollywood concept worked well. It seemed completely fitting and was undoubtedly more amusing than it would have been had the opera been set in the time of Henry IV.
“Well done” to the University Opera’s new full-time director David Ronis (below center) for his imagination and direction. I look forward to his production of Benjamin Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” in early March.
And since this University Opera production and other events are being presented to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the exhibition of a First Folio at the Chazen Museum of Art, I want to put in a plug for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Sir John in Love” which has almost exactly the same plot as “Falstaff” and is woefully underperformed.
I also want to draw your attention the FREE Opera Scenes concert by University Opera that will be presented this Tuesday night, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall. Featured are singers, with piano accompaniment, in scenes from: Charles Gounod’s “Faust”; Claudio Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea“; Giacomo Puccini‘s “La Rondine”; Leonard Bernstein‘s “Trouble in Tahiti”; Gioacchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”; Dominick Argento’s “Postcard From Morocco”; and Marc Blitzstein’s”Regina.”
The program features works by Igor Stravinsky, the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven and the Concerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc, with the Madison-born twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton as soloists.
By Jacob Stockinger
With less than a month left in the first semester’s concert schedule, the performances are really starting to pile up.
Tomorrow, on Sunday, Nov. 20, five groups will perform two FREE concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:
For more information and the complete program, go to:
For more information and the full program, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
This is a post about a very appealing FREE concert by Juilliard violinist Laurie Smukler (below) on this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.
But for The Ear, some context seems fitting.
Some seasons are memorable for great singing or great piano playing or great orchestral playing. And there certainly has been, and will continue to be, lots more of all three this autumn and winter.
But what has really stood out to The Ear this Fall is the string playing, especially the violin.
Actually it started in the summer with a sizzling, white-hot performance by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. The BDDS interspersed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires.”
Violinist Suzanne Beia (below top) played the Vivaldi seasons and McGill University violinist Axel Strauss from Montreal (below bottom) played the Piazzolla seasons. The dueling violins were something to behold and to hear! And the alternation kept listeners from tiring of one particular composer or style. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly memorable concert.
Then came an unforgettable performance of the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky, played with intimacy and clarity as well as stunning virtuosity by the prize-winning Russian-born Ilya Kaler with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell.
Then came wonderful performances by Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud of the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch and some works by Kraggerud himself, accompanied by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain.
Over at the Wisconsin Union Theater, superstar Joshua Bell didn’t disappoint. Appearing in a recital with pianist Alessio Bax, Bell played music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, Eugene Ysaye, Pablo de Sarrasate and Manuel Ponce. Violin recitals just don’t get better.
In between came several performances by the four always reliable and always outstanding string players of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below top, in a photo by Rick Langer) as well as the newly reformed Ancora String Quartet (below bottom).
And there were many other events.
But The Season of Strings isn’t over yet.
This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, there is a FREE recital by Laurie Smukler, a violin professor at the Juilliard School who is also doing a guest residency here that features master classes in the violin and chamber music.
Smukler was invited by and will be joined by Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt), who teaches violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and whose debut recital last year still lingers in The Ear’s ear.
Both women, who are personal friends, are terrific musicians and highly accomplished violinists.
The intriguing program, with the distinguished pianist Victor Asuncion, features the popular work “The Lark Ascending” by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; the Sonata for Two Violins by Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev; and the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor by Brahms. (You can hear the heart-rending slow movement of the Brahms, played by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Daniel Barenboim, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
For more information about all events related to the Smukler residency, go to:
ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features cellist Morgan Walsh, violist Shannon Farley and pianist Kyle Johnson in music by Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Rebecca Clarke. The concert runs from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
By Jacob Stockinger
At 8 p.m. on Friday night in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Chamber Choir (below top), under the direction of Beverly Taylor (below bottom), who heads the choral program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will give a FREE concert.
Guest dancers will join the singers.
Here is the program:
Laudibus in sanctis (Paraphrase of Psalm 150) by William Byrd
“Totentanz” (Dance of Death) by Hugo Distler (original dialogue by Johannes Klockig after the Lübeck Totentanz)
“Dance to My Daddy,” English folksong, arranged by Goff Richards
“Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter, arranged by Andrew Carter
“Der Tanz” (The Dance) by Franz Schubert
“Verano Porteño” by Astor Piazzolla, arranged by Oscar Escalada
“Fa una canzone” by Orazzio Vecchi