The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players end their 30th anniversary retrospective this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and other works.

May 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

A friend writes:

The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) have spent the 2014-2015 season – entitled “Reprise” — encoring performances of unique and much-loved musical works of art over their 30 years, as well as continuing their tradition of presenting memorable, neglected and newer chamber works to their audiences.

Their final concerts of the anniversary season – to be held this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon — highlight music from significant moments in the history of the ensemble.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

The concerts are this Saturday, May 23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 24, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Village Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

The program includes works by American composer Aaron Copland, Danish composer Carl Nielsen, contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall and contemporary Italian composer Corrado Maria Saglietti.

Tickets are available at the door and cost $20 for adult general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Guests for the final concert are Laura Burns (below top), Geri Nolden, Wendy Buehl, violins; Katrin Talbot, viola; Mark Bridges, cello; Bradley Townsend, string bass; and Scott Teeple (below bottom), conductor.

- Laura Burns CR Brynn Bruijn

Scott Teeple

The original version of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944), scored for 13 players, was first performed in concert by the Oakwood Chamber Players 25 years ago on stage at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

This enduring and popular chamber work will be conducted by director of University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble, Scott Teeple. This chamber version of Appalachian Spring features 10 strings, flute, clarinet and bassoon. Originally commissioned by pioneering American modern dance choreographer Martha Graham (below top), this stunning compositional achievement earned Copland (below bottom) the Pulitzer Prize.

martha graham

aaron copland

In 2002, the Oakwood Chamber Players travelled to Washington D.C to represent the State of Wisconsin as artists for the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy Center.

Included in that concert by the group was Serenata Invano (1914), for clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and string bass. The work was described by its composer Carl Nielsen (below top) as a “humorous trifle.” The Oakwood Chamber Players will be joined by guest bassist Bradley Townsend (below bottom) for this upbeat work.

Carl Nielsen at piano

Bradley Townsend

Two additional contemporary works of new music, performed for the first time by the Oakwood Chamber Players this season, will provide listeners with contrasting concepts on dance forms.

Italian composer and horn player Corrado Maria Saglietti (below) wrote his Suite for horn and string quartet (1992) in three movements. It features a sensual tango, a plaintive canzone and a jazz-influenced final movement with driving rhythms subtitled “Speedy,” which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Corrado Maria Saglietti

Not Just a Place, by contemporary British composer Cecilia McDowall (below) – who did a residency this winter at the UW-Madison School of Music — is written for the sultry tones of viola, double bass and piano. Subtitled “dark memories from an old tango hall,” the piece is based on late night impressions of an Argentinian dance hall and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere.

Cecilia McDowall 2

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: Did Beethoven borrow from Beethoven? And how do you think the Madison Symphony Orchestra did with Beethoven’s Ninth? Plus, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) finish up their spring concerts this weekend.

May 15, 2015
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REMINDER: This weekend the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) finish up their spring concerts at Mills Hall and Overture Hall, where the music students will perform a Side-by-Side concert with the professional players of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Here is a link to more information and details:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/classical-music-education-wyso-spring-concerts-start-i-this-saturday-and-run-again-on-may-16-17/

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, you have to hand it to music director and conductor John DeMain as well as the orchestra players, the chorus members and the guest soloists: The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) sure knows how to finish up a season with a bang.

A very Big Bang.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Last weekend in Overture Hall, they closed the current season with a stratospheric performance of Beethoven’s Ninth.

Sure, all parties — especially concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) — also did a terrific job in performing Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto-like “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”), which preceded the iconic Beethoven symphony.

Naha Greenholtz [playing

But it was the Beethoven symphony that grabbed everyone’s ears and didn’t let go, earning a well-deserved and instant standing ovation.

This was Beethoven at his exciting best.

All the musicians played tightly and DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) managed to make the old radical piece sound radically new, with a driving rawness and roughness (lots of loud and highly accented percussion) coupled with flawless precision and great balancing of the winds and strings as well as the brass.

This interpretation was both dramatic and transparent in a way that both thrilled you and helped you to understand the music and its structure.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

A couple of years ago I remarked that DeMain – who came here from the Houston Grand Opera as primarily an opera conductor – had developed into a great Brahms interpreter.

Now I can say the same thing about his having become an outstanding Beethovenian.

But I did have one question:

Am I the only one who hears the slow movement of Beethoven’s early “Pathétique” piano sonata in the opening of the slow movement of his Ninth Symphony?

Listen for yourself and decide by using these YouTube videos:

First, here is the Pathétique’s slow movement, played by Daniel Barenboim, that has been used as a theme song by many musicians including Karl Haas:

And now here is the slow movement, also with Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra made up of Israeli and Palestinian students, of the Ninth Symphony:

Maybe I am hearing things that aren’t there.

Or maybe musicologists have long established the similarity between the early and the late work as fact -– though I cannot recall having seen it mentioned.

What do you think of the comparison?

Can you think of other pieces that sound as if they were twins separated at birth? Leave names – and maybe a YouTube link – in the COMMENTS section.

And what did you think of the final concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: “Grace Presents” offers a FREE concert this Saturday at noon by three UW-Madison graduate students: flutist Danielle Breisach; pianist Yana Avedyan; and percussionist Andrew Baldwin.

May 13, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the community-based “Grace Presents” write:

This Saturday from noon to 1 p.m., at Grace Episcopal Church (below are photos of the exterior and interior), 116 West Washington Avenue on the Capitol Square downtown, “Grace Presents” will offer a FREE concert.

grace episcopal church ext

MBM Grace altar

The program features three University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music graduate students: flutist Danielle Breisach, pianist Yana Avedyan and percussionist Andrew Baldwin.

Grace Presents is a free monthly concert series that takes place in the historic Grace Episcopal Church on Madison’s Capitol Square. The series features a diverse range of music, everything from classical and folk to jazz and bluegrass.

The weekend’s classical program includes: the “Undine” Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 167, by Carl Reinecke (you can hear the lovely slow movement played by Emmanuel Pahud in a YouTube video at the bottom); Sonata da Camera, Op. 67 for Flute and Piano by Nicolas Bacri; Reflections Nos. 1 (Crystalline) and V (Profound) “On The Nature of Water” by Jacob Druckman (1928-1996); Meditation for Solo Vibraphone by Takayoshi Yoshioka (b. 1955); “Toucher” by Vinko Globokar (b. 1934); “Torse III” by Akira Miyoshi  (1933-2013); and “Arabesque” for Solo Vibraphone by Claude Debussy as arranged by Karen Ervin Pershing (1943-2004).

Here are biographies of the three young but very accomplished musicians:

Danielle Breisach’s exuberance and compassion permeate her performing and teaching. In demand as a collaborative musician and teacher, Danielle has performed with several organizations in Michigan and Wisconsin and maintains a private studio of over 30 highly successful students. As an adjudicator and clinician, Breisach (below) has been invited to adjudicate auditions for Winds of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Flute Festival, teach the flute master class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and appear as a guest clinician for middle school and high school flutists in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Currently, Danielle Breisach is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Flute Performance studying with Stephanie Jutt. In addition to modern flute, she is a baroque flute specialist (studied with Jeanne Swack), and has participated in baroque master classes with Kim Pineda and Barthold Kuijken
As Artistic Director of the Madison Flute Club since 2012, Danielle has extended the reach of the organization through founding the Chamber Ensemble, which gave its debut performance at the National Flute Association’s annual convention in 2014. Additionally, Danielle founded the Middle School and High School Flute Ensembles in 2013, giving young, Madison-area flutists the opportunity to collaborate with one another and gain experience on auxiliary instruments.

Previously, Danielle has taught at Western Michigan University, where she received a BM in Music Education (’07) and MM in Music Performance (’09). She also held the position of Director of the High School Flute Ensembles for the West Michigan Flute Association from 2010-2012.

Danielle Breisach lives in Madison with her husband Jeff and their two dogs and three cats. In addition to teaching privately, Danielle is working towards completing her DMA at UW-Madison, working with the Madison Flute Club, and participating on the planning committee for the Wisconsin Flute Festival. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to Bay View, Michigan, kayaking, hiking and reading.

Danielle Breisach 2

Yana Avedyan, pianist, is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she attended Music School No. 9 and studied with Tatiana Glazirina majoring in piano performance. She began her studies with Karen Becker at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2007 and has participated in master classes with Evgenia Tzarov and Helen Huang. In the spring of 2011 Avedyan made her debut as soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488.

She completed her Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Music and Accounting in May 2012, when she graduated summa cum laude. In the spring of 2013 Yana Avedyan and Danielle Breisach (flute) were the winners of the Annual Shain Woodwind­ Piano Duo Competition. In the Spring of 2014, Avedyan was one of the winners of the Annual Beethoven Competition. Avedyan is currently in the DMA program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is a student of Van Cliburn Competition medal-winning pianist Christopher Taylor.

Yana Avedyan-low res

Andrew Baldwin is currently pursuing a master of music in percussion performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He has had the opportunity to perform for master classes and festivals including artists such as Carl Allen, She-e Wu, Greg Beyer, Jack Van Geem, Nancy Zeltsman and Mike Truesdell.  Alongside the UW Whitewater Symphonic Wind Ensemble, he has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Center in Chicago.  He will again play in Carnegie Hall with the UW-Madison Symphonic Wind Ensemble.  With his jazz playing, he has shared the stage with Christian Howes (jazz violinist) and Roy “Futureman” Wooten.

An advocate of chamber and new music, he composes music and plays in various chamber groups both on and off campus.  During his undergraduate studies, he formed the saxophone/percussion duo, “Wood/Wind”, which made a recording of a chronology of pieces showcasing the development of pieces written for the pairing.  Andrew Baldwin also frequently engages in free improvisation with many of the UW-Madison studio members.

Andrew Baldwin-low res


Classical music: Here is the new season in June of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

May 12, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

There are still some smaller-scale concerts left to the season – some chamber music and vocal music by the Oakwood Chamber Players and the Madison Choral Project, for example.

But the next big series of classical music events on tap are the concerts over three weekends in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green during June by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below).

bddsgroup

As usual, the group – co-founded and co-directed by UW-Madison professor and Madison Symphony Orchestra principal flute Stephanie Jutt and pianist Jeffrey Sykes, a UW-Madison grad who teaches in Berkeley — is known for showcasing well-known and neglected works as well as imported and local musicians.

Stephanie jutt and Jeffrey Sykes  CR C&N photographers

For full information, including tickets information and samples from the 2014 season, here is a link to the BDDS website:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

In the meantime, here is a round-up of this summer’s programs and a schedule of performances.

WEEK ONE | JUNE 12, 13, 14

Stephanie Jutt, flute

Jeffrey Sykes, piano
 Sponsored by Ellen White, in memory 
of Barbara Ekholm

Katarzyna Bryla, violin

Parry Karp (below top), cello
 Sponsored by Sue Cleary Koch

Timothy Jones, bass-baritone

Emily Birsan (below middle), soprano

Thomas Kasdorf (below bottom), piano
 Sponsored by Tim Teitelbaum, 
in memory of Susan Horwitz

Parry Karp

Emily Birsan MSO 2014

thomas kasdorf 2:jpg

 STOLEN MOMENTS

Johann Sebastian Bach: Arias and Duets — Sponsored by Carla & Dick Love

Felix Mendelssohn: Cello Sonata in D Major, op. 58

Gian Carlo Menotti: “Steal Me” from The Old Maid and the Thief

Franz Joseph Haydn: Divertimento in G Major, Hob. IV: 7 — Sponsored by Barbara Johnson

Ludwig van Beethoven: Scottish and Irish Folk Songs and Duets

The Playhouse, Overture Center, Madison on 
Friday, June 12, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green
 Sunday on June 14, 2:30 PM

ROB THE CRADLE

Dick Kattenburg: Sonata for flute and piano

Dmitri Shostakovich: Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, op. 127

Modest Mussorgsky: Songs and Dances of Death

Louise Farrenc: Trio in E minor, op. 45

The Playhouse (below), Overture Center, Madison on 
Saturday, June 13, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green
 on Sunday, June 14, 6:30 PM

BDDS Playhouse audience

WEEK TWO | JUNE 19, 20, 21

Stephanie Jutt, flute

Jeffrey Sykes, piano
 Sponsored by Ellen White, in memory 
of Barbara Ekholm

Axel Strauss, violin Sponsored by James Dahlberg & 
Elsebet Lund

Jean-Michel Fonteneau, cello 
Sponsored by Dan & Karen Baumann

Alan Kay, clarinet 
Sponsored by Vicki & Jerry Stewart and Katherine Naherny & Roger Ganser

Thomas Kasdorf, piano
 Sponsored by Anne & Peter Wadsack

Axel Strauss

Jean-Michel Fonteneau

Alan Kay 1 BDDS 2014

HONOR AMONG THIEVES

Johann Sebastian Bach: Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1038

John Harbison: Songs America Loves to Sing

Ludwig van Beethoven: Trio in E-flat Major, op. 38, arranged from the Septet, op. 20

Stoughton Opera House on 
Friday, June 19, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green
 on Sunday, June 21, 2:30 PM

BREAKING AND ENTERING

Florent Schmitt: Sonatina in trio, op. 85 — Sponsored by Jane & David Villa

Paul Schoenfield: Country Fiddle Pieces Sponsored by Martha & Charles Casey

Paul Desenne: Haydn Tuyero, Chicharras, Galeones Sponsored by Jane Blumenfeld & Willow Harth

Johannes Brahms: Piano Trio in B Major, op. 8 — Sponsored by Jacob Stockinger, in memory of Judy Schwaemle

The Playhouse, Overture Center, Madison on Saturday, June 20, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater, Taliesin, Spring Green 
on Sunday, June 21, 6:30 PM

StoughtonOperaHouse,JPG

WEEK THREE | JUNE 26, 27, 28

Stephanie Jutt, flute

Jeffrey Sykes, piano
 Sponsored by Ellen White, in memory 
of Barbara Ekholm

Romie de Guise-Langloise, clarinet

Orlando Pimentel, clarinet

Cynthia Cameron-Fix, bassoon

Richard Todd, horn

Carmit Zori (below), violin
 Sponsored by Daphne Webb

Hyejin Lee, violin

Ara Gregorian, viola 
Sponsored by the family of John Stoelting, 
in loving memory

Katja Linfield, cello

Zachary Cohen, bass

CarmitZori0752

CROOKED BUSINESS

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in B minor, BWV 1030Sponsored by Linda & Keith Clifford

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491 — Sponsored by Norma & Elliott Sober

Johannes Brahms: Serenade in D Major, op. 11, arr. Alan Boustead — Sponsored by Michael Bridgeman, in honor of Jack Holzhueter

Stoughton Opera House on 
Friday, June 26, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater (below), Taliesin, Spring Green
 on Sunday, June 28, 2:30 PM

HIGHWAY ROBBERY

Claude Debussy: Première Rhapsodie — Sponsored by Tim Teitelbaum, in memory of Susan Horwitz

Kevin Puts: Seven Seascapes Sponsored by Miriam Simmons & Jim Cain

Franz Peter Schubert: Octet in F Major, D. 803 — Sponsored by Larry Bechler & Patty Struck

The Playhouse, Overture Center, Madison on 
Saturday, June 27, 7:30 PM

Hillside Theater (below), Taliesin, Spring Green on 
Sunday, June 28, 6:30 PM

taliesin_hillside2

 

 


Classical music: It’s Mother’s Day. What music would you play for her? What music would she like to hear? Tell The Ear. Plus, this afternoon is your last chance to hear the final, critically acclaimed concert of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season with Beethoven’s Ninth on the program. Read the reviews here.

May 10, 2015
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ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the season finale by the Madison Symphony Orchestra: a program of  the “Serenade” after Plato’s “Symposium” by Leonard Bernstein, with concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) as soloist, and the famous Ninth Symphony — the “Ode to Joy” or “Choral” symphony — by Ludwig van Beethoven.

The reviews are unanimous in their enthusiastic praise.

Here is a link to the one that John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:

http://www.isthmus.com/arts/stage/mso-closing-with-a-bang/

And here is one written by Lindsay Christians for The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/review-big-voices-and-beethoven-bring-mso-season-to-a/article_ea23e056-f5bb-11e4-8b8f-5780d0daa395.html

And here is a review written by Bill Wineke for WISC-TV‘s Channel 3000.com:

http://www.channel3000.com/news/opinion/Symphony-review-MSO-ends-season-on-exuberant-note/32912810

Naha Greenholtz 2014 CR  Chris Hynes

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Mother’s Day 2015.

Mothers Day clip art

And nothing says love like music.

So what music would you like to play for your mother?

And what music would she like to hear?

They aren’t necessarily the same.

So here are The Ear’s choices.

For the first I am torn between a work by Antonin Dvorak and one by Johannes Brahms.

The Dvorak work is “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” which you can hear below in a YouTube video by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman playing a transcription from the original for voice.

The second is the movement of the “German” Requiem by Brahms in which he evokes his recently deceased mother. Here it is performed in a classic rendition by soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with Otto Klemperer conducting:

And the piece my mother would love to hear? She loved it when I practiced the piano – and to think I wondered how anyone could enjoy listening to someone practicing? And she especially loved it when I practiced Chopin.

And her favorite piece by Chopin that I played was the bittersweet and elegant Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2, heard below in a YouTube video played by Arthur Rubinstein, whom she took me to hear when he played an all-Chopin concert in Carnegie Hall in 1961 – and we sat on stage.

What are your choices in each category?

Leave word plus, if possible, a YouTube link in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.

And wishes you a Happy Mother’s Day.


Classical music education: Spring concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) start this Saturday and continue on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17.

May 8, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) sent this timely reminder:

WYSO philharmonia orchestra

Starting this Saturday, May 9, and continuing on Saturday and Sunday, May 16-17, the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, Madison.

Tickets are available at the door: $10 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age.

On Saturday, May 9 at 1:30 p.m., WYSO will kick off the concerts with performances by its Percussion Ensemble (below top), Brass Choir, and Harp Ensemble (below bottom).

WYSO percussion Ensemble 2013

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

The following week, on Saturday, May 16, the Philharmonia Orchestra will start the day at 11 a.m. They will play four different works that morning beginning with Symphony No. 9, op. 95, E minor “From the New World,” movement 4, by Antonin Dvorak.

They will transition to Zoltan Kodaly’s Háry János: Intermezzo followed by two pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Overture to “The Magic Flute” and the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major, K. 459. The piano concerto will feature concerto competition winner, Moqiu Cheng. Moqiu (below) is a seventh-grader at Hamilton Middle School and is also a violinist with WYSO.

Moquie Cheng

At the 1:30 p.m. concert, the Concert Orchestra will take the stage with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Simpson Dance of the Tumblers from ‘The Snow Maiden’. Hatikvah, a traditional tune arranged by Del Borgo is next followed by Richard Meyer’s, Tales of Vandosar. They will end their set with Robert Sheldon’s Triumph of the Argonauts.

Following the Concert Orchestra, WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta will end the day’s performances with several pieces including The Abduction from the Seraglio: Overture by Mozart, Richard Meyer’s, Carpe Diem!, and the Allegro from Sinfonia No. 6 in G minor by Johann Christian Bach.

WYSO Concert Orchestra violins

On Sunday, May 17, at 4 p.m., the Youth Orchestra (below top) will take stage at OVERTURE HALL — NOT Mills — along with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below bottom) in a side-by-side concert. The program will feature five different works showcasing the abilities of both orchestras.

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

WCO lobby

They will start with the Festive Overture by Dmitri Shostakovich’s. Following that Soloist Adam Yeazel (below top), a senior at Middleton High School, will perform the Concertino da Camera for Alto Saxophone by Jacques Ibert.

adam yeazel

That will be followed by the cadenza and fourth movement of Violin Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich featuring sophomore Maynie Bradley (below bottom) as the soloist.

Maynie Bradley

After a brief intermission the program will continue with Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations – including Theme I, VII, VIII, IX, XI, Finale and end with Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky in an orchestration by Maurice Ravel.

This is the third “Side by Side” collaboration between the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and WYSO.

According to WCO Maestro Andrew Sewell, “Side by Side” concerts give students “tremendous inspiration and the confidence to play difficult repertoire next to seasoned musicians. We are thrilled to bring this notable musical performance to Overture Hall.”

The public is invited to this free concert. Reservations must be made by calling the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra office at (608) 257-0638. Please note that places are being reserved for this concert, but there will be no tickets. Seating is General Admission. For more information please visit www.wcoconcerts.org.

These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family, along with funds from Dane County, the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, The Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of the The Capital Times, W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. This project is also supported in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

 

 


Classical music: Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz explains Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade,” which she will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this weekend in concerts that also feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

May 7, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear supposes that Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for violin and orchestra  qualifies as program music since it aims to translate Plato’s famous dialogue about love — “Symposium” — into music. (At the bottom, is a YouTube video of Joshua Bell performing the work with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Alan Gilbert in 2013.)

This much is sure. The 1954 work by Bernstein — to be performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) — is part of what makes this weekend’s one of the most interesting programs, maybe THE most interesting, of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Naha Greenholtz [playing

The combination of Romantic and post-WW II modern music includes the performance of a major symphony that is beloved around the world: the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, also known as the “Choral” and Ode to Joy” symphony.

That was the symphony that Leonard Bernstein himself famously conducted in Germany to celebrate to fall of the Berlin Wall. So, what better offering is there to accompany it than something composed by Bernstein?

(John DeMain talked about the Beethoven symphony in a Q&A here earlier this week. Here is a link to that post: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/classical-music-maestro-john-demain-talks-about-the-challenges-and-rewards-of-beethovens-ninth-the-choral-or-ode-to-joy-sympho/ )

Love and joy: Can there be a better way to finish out a season?

The program will be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, who studied and worked with Leonard Bernstein. It will feature the Madison Symphony Chorus, as prepared by MSO assistant conductor Beverly Taylor, who heads the UW-Madison choral department.

Guest vocal soloists are: soprano Melody Moore; contralto Gwendolyn Brown; tenor Eric Barry; and bass Morris Robinson.

Performances are in Overture Hall in the Overture Center. Times are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$84.

For details, go to https://www.madisonsymphony.org or call the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

For more information, including audio samples and a link to program notes by MSO bass trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/beethoven

Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) recently agreed to do an email Q&A about Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade” with The Ear:

Naha Greenholtz profile

How would you compare Leonard Bernstein’s work to the great historical violin concertos by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius? What about to modern and contemporary violin concertos by, say, Samuel Barber and Philip Glass, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich? Are there any you would draw parallels or contrasts to?

The five-movement format in Bernstein’s “Serenade” differentiates it substantially from some of the 18th and 19th century classics. While there’s no literal program, there is the suggestion of a basic narrative in Bernstein’s re-imagination of Plato’s communal dialogue. This element alone connects the work more closely to the late 19th and 20th century sub-genre of “program music.” (Below is a portrait of Leonard Bernstein composing at the piano in 1955, around the time of the “Serenade.”)

In its familiar tonal language — combing modal and traditional harmonic elements — it has some resemblance to the Barber concerto. I don’t think middle-of-the-century American composers like Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein were consciously adhering to style parameters.

That said, there is a distinctive “American-ness” to their works.  Much the same way music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev has a “Russian” sound, without necessarily being nationalistic.  It’s subtler than that.  It is more like these composers shared some common aesthetic DNA due to their national and cultural origins.

Leonard Bernstein composing in 1955

Where do you place it among Bernstein’s body of works? Is he generally underappreciated as a composer compared to his work as a conductor and his music for the Broadway theater?

To the latter question, this is certainly true.  He was such a charismatic public figure in music, especially in his work as an educator, conductor and composer of popular music. In light of this, I think his remarkable contributions to “art” music are easily overlooked.

In the Serenade he manages to blend many stylistic elements.  I hear the Devil’s Dance from Igor Stravinsky’s “Histoire du Soldat” and, in the fourth movement, glimpses of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.  The instrumentation is a nod to Bela Bartok in his “Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste” and the tonal language shows Paul Hindemith’s influence.

But despite all of that, Bernstein’s unique language is apparent within the first five seconds of the piece when the rising augmented 4th resolves up a half step.  That’s what is so remarkable about Bernstein (below, in a photo by Jack Mitchell) — he manages to blend disparate elements of other great artists without losing his own intrinsic style.

Leonard Bernstein CR Jack Mitchell

How does Bernstein express the idea of Platonic dialogue?

Each of the movements is loosely based on the themes of the seven speakers in the work by Plato (below is an ancient sculptural depiction of the philosopher). The concerto begins with the soloist alone in a rhetorical statement and the piece unfolds as each orator presents his perspective on the topic of love. By the end of the fifth movement, drinking seems to have taken over the gathering, leading to a thrilling depiction of a boisterous dinner party.

Plato

How is the idea of love as a carnal and spiritual subject that the guests discuss get expressed?

On describing the duality of love, as a force that cuts both ways, Bernstein is explicit. For example in the third movement Erixymathus, he uses the soloist and orchestra as warring factions. The orchestra explodes with a three-note jab. Then the soloist introduces a quasi-tone row that’s passed back and forth with contrasting intensity. Further into the movement, he piles these themes on top of each other in a frenetic fugue that expresses the mystery and ecstasy of love.

In contrast, the next movement Agathon features the same three-note motive that opened the previous movement, but stretched to 10 times its initial length, utterly transforming it into a spiritual and intimate aria. Bernstein does this all over the piece, taking material from previous movements and showing them in a new light. (Below is a fresco depiction of the Symposium.)

Fresco of Symposium USE

What do you think of the work itself and how its fits with Beethoven’s Ninth? Have you played it before or is it new to you?

Until last year I’d only known the Serenade by recording, so I was thrilled when John suggested we perform it here with the MSO.

It’s strangely neglected in the solo violin repertoire. Maybe that is because of the unconventional five-movement format, or that the title “after Plato’s Symposium”   is somehow intimidating or off-putting.

It’s clearly one of Bernstein’s great orchestral works and is a firework of a showpiece for the violin. As far as pairing with Beethoven’s Ninth, the themes of brotherhood and platonic love feature prominently in both works.

How challenging is it to play and what are the challenges both technically and interpretively? What would you like the audience to pay special attention to?

I find all music challenging. Mozart is simpler in terms of notes and patterns than, say, Shostakovich or Bernstein, but in its own way it is just as hard to play and requires just as much diligent work to pull off.

The Bernstein is full of musical challenges and requires lots of imagination and characterization to communicate the narrative of Plato’s dialogue.

That being said, it’s a major 20th-century solo work so it’s also chock full of technical hurdles. Isaac Stern (below, in 1977) – for whom this piece was written — has left us fingering and bowing suggestions, so I know the thorny passages are at least theoretically possible!

Isaac Stern in 1979

In any event, I’m really looking forward to these performances and think these will be fantastic concerts for anyone who loves great music.

 


Classical music: Why is Beethoven so popular? And why do all-Beethoven concerts work so well? Conductor Andrew Sewell answers these questions even as he prepares to perform the all-Beethoven concert tonight by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

May 1, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, conductor Andrew Sewell (below top) will lead the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below bottom) and guest pianist Bryan Wallick, who won the Vladimir Horowitz Prize and is returning to Madison, in an all-Beethoven concert to wrap up this season of the WCO indoors Masterworks programs.

AndrewSewellnew

WCO lobby

The program includes the “Leonore” Overture No. 1, the Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” and the Symphony No. 7.

Tickets are $15-$62. For more information, visit: http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-v

The Ear asked the guest pianist Bryan Wallick and WCO’s longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell to explain why all-Beethoven concerts work so well and why Beethoven remains so popular with the general public. (Coincidentally, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will also close its season with Beethoven, specifically the Symphony No. 9 (“Choral” or “Ode to Joy”) on May 8, 9 and 10.

Wallick’s answers appeared here on Wednesday and offered the perspective of an instrumentalist. Here is a link to his answers:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/classical-music-why-is-beethoven-so-popular-and-why-do-all-beethoven-concerts-works-pianist-bryan-wallick-explains-these-questions-even-as-he-prepares-to-play-the-emperor-concerto/

And here are the answers by conductor Andrew Sewell (below), who kindly responded to an email Q&A:

andrewsewell

Beethoven (below), along with a handful of other composers, including Mozart and Tchaikovsky, is one of the few composers who can make up a single-composer concert that also attracts the public. What accounts for that, do you think?

I think his name is synonymous with classical music. His music defines it — the working out of themes, melody and development — from his overtures, symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas and string quartets.

Beethoven big

What role has Beethoven played in your career? Are there works in particular that you were drawn to as a student or a performing professional?

As a young concertgoer, at the age of 8, I heard his Symphony No. 9 “Choral” and fell in love with the “Ode to Joy.” I was captivated by his life and biography, about his deafness overtaking him, and stories of his inner personal struggles. I remember reading all about his life as a youngster, and I loved playing his music.

As a violinist, I loved getting to know his violin sonatas and symphonies. One of my first significant orchestral experiences at age 16 was playing his “Leonore” Overture No. 3 with the New Zealand Youth Orchestra, and a year later, the Fifth Symphony. Beethoven’s overtures and symphonies are the bread and butter of any orchestra.

Andrew Sewell BW

Beethoven consistently ranks as the general public’s favorite classical composer. Why is that, do you think? The consistently high quality of the music? The diversity of works and forms that his creativity expressed itself in? The sense of overcoming struggle and personal hardship you find in his works?

All of the above. You said it in the wide variety of forms he used –- symphonies, overtures, sonatas, chamber music. The string quartets alone, like Mozart’s Piano Concertos, are a lifetime testament in which we see his development as a composer and inner struggles.

His personal life is intertwined with the complexities of his later works, as he stretched the boundaries of form and development. His Ninth Symphony and the late string quartets testify to this. Overcoming struggle and personal hardship give the music its triumphal drive.

beethoven BW grim

Is there an aspect of Beethoven that you think the public needs to pay more attention to and that you intend to emphasize in your interpretations?

The “Leonore” Overture No. 1 is probably the least played of the four overtures related to his one and only opera, “Fidelio.” Inadvertently he created a new form, known as the Concert Overture, and which Mendelssohn later took up.

This overture, does not include the off-stage trumpet reverie, as in Nos. 2 and 3. For some reason, Beethoven was not satisfied, and continued to refine it in later compositions. What I find intriguing about this overture is the way he transitions from slow to fast sections and back again so seamlessly and how he experimented with a continuous form.

The Symphony No. 7  — below is a page of the work’s manuscript from Beethoven’s almost illegible notebooks — is among his most energetic symphonies. It never lets up and is physically demanding on all sections of the orchestra. One needs stamina for this music. It is also extremely exciting to play and to listen to, hence it is a very popular symphony. (At the bottom,  in a popular YouTube video with almost 8 million hits, you can hear the famous and well-known Allegretto movement from the Symphony No. 7 with an intriguing bar graph score.)

Beethoven Symphony no 7 MS

Is there anything you would like to say or add?

An all-Beethoven program is a great way to end the season, especially when you have pianist Bryan Wallick (below) returning to perform with us. We are most excited to hear and share his performance of the mighty “Emperor” Piano Concerto.

Bryan Wallick mug

 


Classical music: Why is Beethoven so popular? And why do all-Beethoven concerts work so well? Pianist Bryan Wallick answers these questions even as he prepares to play the “Emperor” Concerto this Friday night in the all-Beethoven concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

April 29, 2015
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) and pianist Bryan Wallick, who won the Vladimir Horowitz Prize and is returning to Madison, will perform under longtime WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell an all-Beethoven concert to end the WCO’s indoors Masterworks season.

WCO lobby

The program includes the “Leonore” Overture No. 1, the Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” and the Symphony No. 7.

Tickets are $15-$62.

For more information, visit: http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-v

The Ear asked Bryan Wallick to explain why all-Beethoven concerts work so well and why Beethoven remains so popular with the general public. (The Madison Symphony Orchestra will also close its season with Beethoven, specifically the Symphony No. 9 (“Choral” or “Ode to Joy”) on May 8, 9 and 10.)

Wallick (below) kindly responded to an email Q&A:

Bryan Wallick mug

Beethoven, along with a handful of other composers, including Mozart and Tchaikovsky, is one of the few composers who can make up a single-composer concert that also attracts the public. What accounts for that?

Beethoven had the luxury of living a longer life than many of the famous composers, so his compositional output is larger than that of many other composers.

His compositional style also changed dramatically over the course of his life, and there aren’t too many composers whose music is so categorically defined as early, middle and late works.

At the Juilliard School, the famous Beethoven class taught by the late Jacob Lateiner (below) described five different categories of musical progression in Beethoven’s career. This diversity gives many different variations and possibilities of programmatic combinations that are stimulating and exciting.

However most all-Beethoven programs often program works from his middle or late period, and the music is just that good that we are happy to only hear Beethoven. He was perhaps the greatest genius to ever put his pen to music, in a different capacity than Mozart.

Jacob Lateiner

What role has Beethoven played in your career? Are there works in particular that you were drawn to as a student or a performing professional?

Beethoven has been a huge influence in my career, and probably most any pianist’s career as he wrote so much music for the piano.  His 32 sonatas are one of the greatest musical achievements ever produced, so there is always an unending supply of great piano music that most pianists never even get to in their careers unless they become Beethoven specialists.

As a student, I remember a general rule that I was given that I should always be learning some Beethoven sonata while learning everything else that I was working on. As a child, I often listened to Beethoven sonatas before I went to bed, and this music was very motivational in driving me to develop my technique to the level where I could perform these pieces.

Bryan Wallick at piano

Beethoven (below) consistently ranks as the general public’s favorite classical composer. Why is that, do you think?

As I said earlier, the diversity of works is enormous, but I think the general public isn’t that aware of the huge diversity of works. Those are mostly precious gems for musicians to savor, but the tonal language is very acceptable to a wide audience. Plus, the stories of his fiery temper and his deafness add a certain mystery to his genius that can interest a wide audience.

In the work which I will play, the “Emperor” Piano Concerto, it is harmonically very simple, he often just moves between a I chord and a V chord, but how he does it is so interesting and the emotional depths which he contemplates with these very simple chords is astounding. How he is able to encapsulate his struggles and personal hardship in his music is perhaps the reason why his genius could exceed that of Mozart.

Beethoven big

Is there an aspect of Beethoven that you think the public needs to pay more attention to and that you intend to emphasize in your interpretations?

I wish the public had the time and opportunity to become more familiar with a broader range of Beethoven’s music. They often get to hear the famous works, but when one understands and sees the connections between the famous pieces and the ones written in between, the appreciation for what he does in the famous works only becomes greater.

One can always strive to hear more things in the music, and the great experience of performing these works is that even though we’ve played this music many, many times, we as musicians still keep finding new things in this music, and the experience always keeps growing and changing.

Is there anything you would like to say or add?

I love this concerto for many reasons, but one of the most interesting aspects of this piece is how simple it is, and I believe it is a struggle for many pianists to leave this piece alone and not to do too much with it. (Below is the notebook manuscript of the opening of the “Emperor” Concerto from measure 3 until the second theme enters.)

emperor concerto ms from measure 3

The phrasing is very logical, well written, and if a pianist tries to do too much with it, somehow the music doesn’t work.  For example, I feel there is a lot of room for a pianist to manipulate and turn phrases 1,000 different ways in the fourth piano concerto.

But this piece has a structure, logic and direction that I feel a pianist must just accept, appreciate, respect; and they must find a simple way to bring this to an audience. (You can hear the acclaimed Beethoven interpreter and pianist Rudolf Serkin and conductor Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra perform the “Emperor” Concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

I’ve heard many performances of this piece where pianists try to over-interpret things, so my goal is to just let this great music speak on its own with just little “comments” here and there from myself.


Classical music: The Mosaic Chamber Players end the season with memorable performances of piano quintets by Faure and Brahms.

April 27, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker, who also provided performance photos. 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.

John Barker

By John W. Barker

For its final concert of the season, the Mosaic Chamber Players (below) gave a program Saturday night at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. It combined two of the great quintets for piano and strings: the second of that type, in C minor, Op. 115, by Gabriel Fauré (1847-1924); and the only one if its kind, in F minor, Op. 34, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).

Mosaic Chamber Players  Quintets 1 JWB

So close together, one would think, and yet, so far apart. Contrasts result from distinct differences between the two composers in both nationality and personality — between Gallic eloquence and German burliness.

The work by Fauré (below) was completed in 1921, by which time Debussy was dead and Ravel, who was Faure’s student, was in his prime. It  is one of a half-dozen chamber pieces with which the composer rounded out his final years — almost, one might think, as an extension of his long output of piano writing.

Its expansive four-movement format is conventional in scope and with a range of expression. But its heart is a long and rapturous slow movement that flows with the unfolding elegance of one of Fauré’s piano nocturnes. (You can hear the slow movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

faure

By contrast, the quintet by Brahms (below) is one of the masterpieces of his early chamber-music writing. It dates from 1862, when Richard Wagner was between the composition of “Tristan und Isolde” and “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.”

Starting as some ideas for a symphony, it exists also in Brahms’s own adaptation of it as a sonata for two pianos. Its four movements are more conventionally conceived than Fauré’s, combining masterful Classical craftsmanship with powerful Romantic urgency.

brahms3

The performances involved five players from the group. The two violinists alternated in the first chair: Laura Burns for the Fauré, Wes Luke for the Brahms. Micah Behr and Michael Allen played viola and cello, respectively, while pianist Jess Salek (below) was the anchor as pianist, just as he is as the group’s guiding spirit.

Jess Salek JWB

These players have worked together before, but not as a consistent ensemble, although they suggested a close collegiality that more established groups might envy. They fully captured the moods, nuances and strengths of the two works.

If there were problems, it had to do with some balances, above all disadvantaging the viola. Some of the explanation could be in the choice of the cavernous Atrium Hall (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) as performing venue, rather then the more intimate Landmark auditorium, the original meeting house of the First Unitarian Society, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Atrium’s highly reverberant acoustics overwhelmed the players’ sound, and, at the same time, prompted over-exertions in volume output, to the detriment of carefully calculated ensemble.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

The size of the hall also pointed up the painfully small size of the audience. There are always weekend competitions for attention, especially in the spring. Still, the Mosaic group is only beginning to develop sufficient promotion and publicity for its activities. Potential audience members need to be made aware of what the group offers.

Mosaic Chamber Players bow at Quintets JWB

What it does offer is one of the high-quality sources of chamber music performance in Madison’s very rich spectrum of events in that category.

The next Mosaic season should win the wider attention it greatly deserves.


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