The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Composer Philip Glass, 78, writes a fascinating memoir of his training, struggle and acceptance as a “minimalist” musician.

April 19, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Not a lot of musicians write well. It’s probably because they prefer to let their music-making do their communicating.

But one notable exception is the “minimalist” composer Philip Glass (below), whose new volume of memoirs is being praised for its insights and for its engaging, articulate style. (A good sample of his speaking, composing and playing is in the YouTube  video at the bottom.)

Phlip Glass 2015

Recently, Glass did a 46-minute interview for Terry Gross and her “Fresh Air” program on NPR (National Public Radio.) He discussed his early days composing and performing as well his training with famed French teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Philip Glass book cover

The NPR story has the interview plus some highlights from the interview and also some excerpts from the book “Words Without Music.

The Ear thinks that Glass, now 78, emerges as a very thoughtful and perceptive man who is also droll and self-deprecating.

See what you think.

Here is a link to the NPR story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/06/397832333/philip-glass-on-legacy-the-future-its-all-around-us

And here is a highly positive review of the book that appeared in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/books/review-philip-glasss-words-without-music-tells-of-a-life-full-of-changes-in-rhythm.html?_r=0

What do you think of Philip Glass and his music? His memoirs?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Is the Toronto Symphony censoring freedom of speech? Read about the Twitter Wars in Toronto that involve two pianists who have played in Madison.

April 18, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Tweets — those messages that comes via Twitter — may be short, containing a maximum of only 140 characters.

Sample Tweet from space

But they can sure pack a wallop and get people riled up.

Consider what is happening in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra  (below top, in a photo by John Loper) that canceled an appearance – with full payment of a concert fee  — by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below bottom).

Toronto Symphony Orchestra USE CR John Loper

Valentina Lisitsa

Lisitsa tweeted about the political situation in her native Ukraine and that apparently caused quite the stir among symphony sponsors. So the symphony canceled her performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – and paid her concert fee anyway. (Rachmaninoff and this concerto are specialties of Lisitsa, as you can hear on the YouTube video at the bottom)

Locally, Lisitsa — known for her power, endurance and phenomenal technique as well as her savvy use of YouTube to establish a career — has played several times at the Wisconsin Union Theater and at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Then the Toronto Symphony tried to engage pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear (below), who is famous for doing marathons in which he plays all 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven in one day. He has performed several times with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Goodyear

Anyway, here is a terrific account of the story — with great reporting and writing from Anastasia Tsioulcas — that was posted on Deceptive Cadence, the outstanding classical music blog that is on NPR (National Public Radio).

Here is the link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/09/398571112/twitter-outrage-takes-toronto-canceling-two-pianists

What do you think of this dust-up?

Was Lisitsa treated fairly?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Wisconsin State Capitol will mark Earth Day this Saturday and next Wednesday with music by Wisconsin composer John Harmon plus words by Wisconsin figures responsible for the environmental tribute. Plus, the Edgewood College Chamber Orchestra performs Mozart, Debussy and Stravinsky this Sunday afternoon. And don’t forget about WYSO’s “Art of Note” fundraiser Saturday night and two performances on Friday night and Sunday afternoon of Rameau’s opera-ballet “Pygmalion” by the Madison Bach Musicians.

April 17, 2015
Leave a Comment

REMINDERS: This Saturday night from 6 to 10 p.m., the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will hold its annual “Art of Note” fundraiser at CUNA Mutual. Auctions, fine food and live music will be featured.

For more information visit: http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/artofnote/ and https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/classical-music-education-wysos-art-of-note-benefit-on-april-18-seeks-to-raise-50000-to-benefit-music-education-in-greater-madison-area/

Art of Note logo copy

Also: The Madison Bach Musicians presents two performances of “Pygmalion” by Jean-Philippe Rameau It’s a 1784 Baroque opera-ballet done in the Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

The first performance is tonight with a 6:45 p.m. lecture and 7:30 p.m. concert. The second is on Sunday afternoon with a lecture at 2:45 p.m.  and a 3:30 p.m. concert.

Internationally recognized UW-Madison early-music specialist Marc Vallon will direct a full baroque orchestra, dancers and an outstanding vocal cast as they tell the tale of a sculptor who falls in love with his beautiful creation—and then, through the power of Venus, the statue comes to life. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

For more information, go to: http://madisonbachmusicians.org/concerts/current-concert-season/

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

ALERT: At 2:30 p.m. this Sunday afternoon, in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive, the Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will give its Spring Concert.

Admission for the public is $5 and will benefit music scholarships. Admission is FREE with an Edgewood College ID.

The Edgewood Chamber Orchestra will play under the director of Blake Walter (below, in a photo by John Maniaci). Included on the program are the Symphony No. 32 in G by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Claude Debussy and the Pulcinella Suite by Igor Stravinsky.

blake walter john maniaci

Also being performed is the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19, K. 459, featuring pianist Stephanie Crescio (below), the winner of the Edgewood College Music Department Student Concerto Competition.

Stephanie Crescio

By Jacob Stockinger

Madison-based music publicist and activist Jon Becker writes:

Wisconsin’s Earth Day Heritage will be celebrated in music and words this Saturday, April 18, and on next Wednesday, April 22. (You can hear a short history of Earth Day in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Music broadcasts will feature the voices of the descendants of
John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Earth Day Founder U.S. Senator and former state Governor Gaylord Nelson, set to the symphonic music of Wisconsin composer John Harmon.

There will be several opportunities to hear a “sneak preview” of Earth Day Portrait, music celebrating Earth Day values, before its international release on CD later this year.

For the third year, the music will be “broadcast” in the Rotunda of Wisconsin’s State Capitol building (below). Listeners should gather at the bust of “Fighting Bob” La Follette (the East Gallery entry is closest).

Wisconsin Capitol

Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda

On Saturday, April 18, the music will be broadcast 10 times on the half hour, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m.

On Wednesday,  April 22 — which is Earth Day — there will be broadcasts at 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Earth Day 2015

Earth Day Portrait is a symphonic setting of eco-moral texts of John Muir, Aldo Leopold and Earth Day founder, former Wisconsin Gov. and U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (below). For the CD recording, the words of these environmental legends were read by their descendants: William (Muir) Hanna, great-grandson; Nina Leopold Bradley, daughter; Gaylord Nelson Jr., son; and Kiva Nelson, grand-daughter.

Gaylord Nelson

Patty Loew, an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, narrated connecting texts that paint intimate, personal portraits of Muir, Leopold, and Nelson, while recalling their unique mutual connection to Madison, Wisconsin.

All this is woven together by the story of the passenger pigeon’s extinction. Members of the Madison Youth Choirs (below, in a photo by Karen Holland) recorded a call-and-response part that -– at concert performances -– is spoken by audience members.

Madison Youth Choirs boychoirs Purcell, Britten and Holst CR Karen Holland

Earth Day Portrait was composed in 2001 by John Harmon (below), who graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and who makes his home on the Wolf River, near Winneconne.

Harmon’s music was recorded in Glasgow by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, led by conductor Marin Alsop, the first conductor to win a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. London’s EMI-Abbey Road Studios produced the master recording. Voiceovers were recorded at Audio for the Arts in Madison and at Umbrella Studios in Los Angeles.

John Harmon

For the forthcoming Earth Day CD, Harmon’s composition will be paired with Hymn to the Earth, by American composer Edward Joseph Collins (1886-1951, below). Composed in Door County, and inspired by Wisconsin’s seasons and landscapes, Collins’s ode to nature also may well be the first Western classical composition to refer to our home planet as “Mother Earth.”

Edward Joseph Collins

 

 

 


Classical music: It’s a very busy week at the UW-Madison School of Music. Here is a roundup of the mostly FREE concerts, master classes and other events.

April 13, 2015
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

You always know when we are coming down to the end of a semester or the end of the school year. The music events start stacking up over the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music likes planes stacked up over O’Hare.

Talk about Train Wreck Weekends! And this is just the UW. There is plenty more to come, as you will see here over the course of this week.

In a way, it is a testament to the vitality of the music scene here in the Madison area.

But it is also too bad to the degree that so many events almost guarantee that some audiences will be smaller than they might otherwise be because people just can’t keep up with so many things that are so closely scheduled that they compete with each other for listeners’ free time. And we are not even talking about big draws like the three performances of the annual concert and show by the UW-Madison Varsity Band.

TUESDAY

Guest artists the Elaris Duo (below) will give master classes Tuesday night, April 14. The violin class with Larisa Elisha will be from 6-7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, and the cello class will be with Steven Elisha from 8-9:30 p.m. They perform a concert Wednesday night at 8 in Mills Hall. See below.

elaris duo

WEDNESDAY

A FREE concert will be given by the UW-Madison Guitar Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall under the direction of Javier Calderon (below top). Sorry, The Ear has received no word about the program. For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-guitar-ensemble-2/

$2 Broom, a FREE concert of electro-acoustic improvised music by students will be held in Music Hall, under the direction of UW-Madison horn professor Daniel Grabois (below bottom, in a photo by James Gill). For more information when it is posted, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/2-dollar-broom-2015/

A FREE concert by guest artists the Elaris Duo — husband-and-wife cellist and violinist — in Mills Hall at 8 p.m. The program includes works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Zoltan Kodaly and Erwin Schulhoff. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/elaris-duo-guest-artists/

Javier Calderon color

Daniel Grabois 2012  James Gill

THURSDAY

The Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will perform a FREE concert at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program includes the String Quartet in A Major, K. 464, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the String Quartet No. 4 by Leon Kirchner; and the early String Quartet in C Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 18, No. 4. For more information about the concert and the Pro Arte Quartet, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pro-arte-quartet_4_16/

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

FRIDAY

At 2 p.m. in Room 1629 of the Humanities Building, Brazilian percussionist Ney Rosauro (below) will give a master class that is open to the public. For information about the artist, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/master-class-with-brazilian-percussionist-ney-rosauro/

ney rosauro

At 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall, the Mad City Brass Quintet, made up of UW-Madison students, will perform a FREE concert of music by UW-Madison professor emeritus of tuba and euphonium John Stevens (below) as well as by Billy Joel, Michael Kamen and Andre Lafosse. For more information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/mad-city-brass-quintet/

john stevens lon gprofile with tuba

At 7:30 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, the UW-Madison Concert Choir, Chorale, and Madrigal Singers will perform. Bruce Gladstone will conduct. The joint concert of the three choirs is themed “O Beauty” but each ensemble will have its own section. (Below is the Concert Choir performing.)

The choirs will perform together on the following large works: Blest Pair of Sirens by C.H.H. Parry and Missa “O Pulchritudo” by Gian-Carlo Menotti.

These will be performed with UW-Madison Professor John Chappell Stowe on organ.

For information, visit: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/uw-concert-choir-chorale-and-madrigal-singers/

Concert Choir 2

SATURDAY

At 3:30 in Morphy Recital Hall, the Perlman Trio (funded by local philanthropist Kato Perlman) and two guest artists (below in a photo by Tori Rogers) will perform a FREE concert. The piano trio members (three in the front) are SeungWha Baek, piano; Valerie Sanders, violin; and Daniel Ma, cello. Guests are Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, and Jeremy Kienbaum, viola.

The program includes: Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Hoboken XV: 29, by Franz Joseph Haydn; the Piano Quintet in D Major, Op. 51, by Anton Arensky; and the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 (original version) by Johannes Brahms. For information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/perlman-trio-recital/

Perlman Trio (left three) and guests CR Tori _Rogers

At 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Low Brass Ensemble will offer a FREE concert. Sorry, no other details are available. When they are, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/low-brass-ensemble/

At 6 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. UW-Madison bassoonist-conductor Marc Vallon (below top, in a photo by James Gill) and Madison Bach Musicians founder, director and keyboard player Trevor Stephenson (below bottom) will host a demonstration of early music practices and period instruments, featuring performers from the Madison Bach Musicians. The event is part of the year-long “Rediscovering Rameau” music festival.

Later this week there will be two semi-staged performances of Rameau’s 1748 ballet-opera “Pygmalion” that Stephenson and the Madison Bach Musicians will give at the First Unitarian Society of Madison this Friday night at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. Go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/pygmalion-madison-bach-musicians/

Marc Vallon 2011 James Gill (baroque & modern)[2]

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

At 6:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the gala concert of the 12th annual Madison Flute Festival, “Flutes Down Under,” will take place. Admission is $5 for those not taking part in the day-long festival. It is held by the Wisconsin Flute Club and the flute studio of UW Professor Stephanie Jutt, who is Principal Flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and also a co-founder and co-director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

The Madison Flute Club is winding up a fund-raising drive — nearly $15,000 — for the purchase of a contra bass flute. This instrument was made by Eva Kingma in the Netherlands, and is in transit now. This instrument will be the first contra bass flute in Wisconsin.

The Madison Flute Club also recently sponsored a composition contest for the contra bass flute, and the winning piece will be performed at the Flute Club’s Spring Recital May 9 at Midvale Lutheran Church.

At the conclusion of the Flute Festival this week, the public is invited to hear a performance featuring the family of low flutes. This concert will present pieces by Gary Shocker, Vaughan McAlley and many other composers writing for the low flutes. Attendees will hear performances on alto, bass, contra bass and subcontrabass flute –an extremely rare instrument.

Other festival events take place at the UW-Madison Pyle Center. The festival features guest artist Peter Sheridan (below), low flutes specialist visiting from Australia.  Activities include flute choir reading sessions, master class, performances, presentations, vendors and competitions featuring monetary prizes. For more information, go to: http://www.madisonfluteclub.org/FluteFestival.html

and

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/gala-concert-wisconsin-flute-festival/

British Flute Society Convention 2010

SUNDAY

At 3:30 p.m., the winners of UW-Madison’s annual Beethoven Piano Sonata Competition will perform. A reception will follow. The event is made possible by the generosity of former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain (below bottom). For word on the winners and the sonatas to be performed, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/beethoven-competition-recital/

Beethoven big

Irving Shain

 


Classical music: This afternoon is your last chance to hear pianist Christopher Taylor and the Madison Symphony Orchestra in rave-receiving performances of concertos by Bach and Liszt and the Symphony No. 7 by Anton Bruckner. Then this Tuesday night, organist Samuel Hutchison will continue the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Overture Concert Organ with a recital of Bach, Mozart, Widor and other composers.

April 12, 2015
Leave a Comment

ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear what may be the best concert of this season by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The program features UW-Madison virtuoso pianist Christopher Taylor (below) in Keyboard Concerto No. 4 by J.S. Bach and Piano Concerto No. 1 by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt as well as a “landmark” performance of the Late Romantic Austrian composer Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.

Here is a rave review by John W. Barker, the dean of Madison’s music critics who writes for Isthmus and for this blog:

http://www.isthmus.com/arts/stage/piano-virtuoso-joins-madison-symphony-orchestra-christopher-taylor/

Christopher Taylor new profile

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Organist and Curator Samuel Hutchison will mark a decade of memorable performances on the Overture Concert Organ (below) in a recital on this coming Tuesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.

Overture Concert Organ overview

The program will include music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Alexander Guilmant, Jehan Alain, Charles-Marie Widor and Charles Villiers Stanford. (You can hear one of the Bach works he will play — the Fantasy and Fugue in G  Minor, BWV 542, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

For the specific works on the program and more information, go to:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/hutchisonrecital

Hutchison (below) has presented many recitals in the U.S and in Europe in locations that include the Riverside Church, New York City; St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; and Notre Dame, St. Sulpice and St. Étienne-du-Mont, Paris.

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

He also performed the complete works of J.S. Bach – himself primarily an organist — in a series of 11 weekly recitals for the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 1985.

General admission for the concert is $20 and tickets can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/hutchisonrecital, the Overture Center Box Office or (608) 258-4141.

Student rush tickets are $10 day of show with a valid student ID see http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).

This concert is sponsored by Friends of the Overture Concert Organ.

For more Overture Concert Organ information, including recital, hymn sings and community visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason

 


Classical music: Behold Bruckner! Conductor John DeMain explains the monumental beauty and major technical and interpretative challenges of Anton Bruckner, whose mammoth Seventh Symphony he will perform this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

April 8, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend brings what, for The Ear, is the most interesting program of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The combination of Baroque, Romantic and Late Romantic music includes the long-awaited performance of a major symphony—the Seventh—by Anton Bruckner (below).

Anton Bruckner 2

The program, to be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt. The soloist for both works is the dynamic and versatile Christopher Taylor (below), the resident virtuoso at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Here is a link to an interview with him that appeared here earlier this week:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/classical-music-uw-madison-pianist-christopher-taylor-says-bach-wouldnt-mind-being-played-on-the-piano-and-the-public-should-get-to-know-the-less-virtuosic-side-of-liszt-he-plays-concertos/

Christopher Taylor new profile

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.

Maestro DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) recently agreed to do an email Q&A about Bruckner with The Ear:

John DeMain full face by Prasad

Why has the MSO gone so long without playing a Bruckner symphony? Why did you choose the Symphony No. 7 as the first Bruckner symphony to be performed by the MSO during your tenure?

When I first came to Madison, I was so focused on Mahler that I didn’t think much about Bruckner. Doing so much Mahler in a short season of seven classical concerts, I felt that adding Bruckner to the mix was too much for our audiences from this period.

Now I can focus on other composers from the late Romantic period, most notably Anton Bruckner. The MSO performed Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (“Romantic”) in the mid-1980s. So I felt the Seventh would be the right symphony to perform after such a long hiatus, and one the audience would have enormous pleasure listening to.

Do you plan to program other Bruckner symphonies in future seasons? What is the next one you would like to conduct?

I’m certainly interested in a reload at the Fourth Symphony as well as the Eighth and Ninth in some future year.

What makes Bruckner great and how does his music differ from that of his contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler? What are his musical signatures?

Bruckner’s music is monumental in structure. The music basks in tonal beauty. His melodic lines are long, and he loves sequences, modulating as he goes along, building to temporary climaxes, until the big ones come along. The slow movement of the Seventh Symphony is achingly beautiful and moving.

At times, he sounds like Mahler (below), and why not? They were both writing at the same time, so musical trends are going to creep into the composers’ writing in any given era. The lilting waltz in the middle of the slow movement and the scherzo are two such examples that call to mind the music of Mahler.

For me, Mahler’s music struggles more, from the depths of human misery to the glories of newfound salvation. Bruckner doesn’t do that. His music is more architectural in its dramatic unfolding, relying on sequential melodic and harmonic tension, and powerful eruptions from the brass sections of the orchestra.

Gustav Mahler big

What are the major challenges, technical and interpretive, for you and the MSO players in doing Bruckner?

Bruckner is not as explicit as Mahler or Richard Strauss in his directions to the interpreter. Often a movement will have one, or, at the most, two or three general tempo indications. This leaves enormous leeway for the conductor to interpret Bruckner’s intentions. Listening to a variety of past performances by some of our greatest German and Austrian conductors of the past reveals enormous differences regarding tempo, consistency of tempo and general shaping. My influences will be more recent to reflect the scholarship and musical sensibilities of our time.

The challenge for the orchestra will primarily be endurance, particularly for the brass, as Bruckner the loves repetition during his big climaxes, literally embracing the audience with rapturous sound. Also, the strings are asked to play tremolo a lot, and that can be fatiguing. The effect, however, is wonderful. (Note: You can hear that for yourself in a YouTube video at the bottom that features an excerpt from the Scherzo movement of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 as performed by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.)

The biggest challenge for me will be the shaping of the symphony. Finding the right tempo, and knowing when to depart from it, so the music can breathe, are additional challenges, as well as paying strict attention to the long crescendos, diminuendos and sudden dynamic changes.

I can’t wait to get to work on it. Other aspects of orchestral playing are always present, like the intonation of the Wagner tubas that we will be using and strict adherence to dynamic changes that are bold, frequent and often extreme.

MSO-HALL

John DeMain conducting 2

What would you like the audience to pay special attention to in the symphony and your performance of it?

I think the audience should let the power and beauty of this symphony take them on their own personal journey. The Wagnerian and Mahlerian influences, as well as the Germanic nature of the music, should be immediately apparent to the listener and put them on familiar territory.

Is there anything else you would like to say about Bruckner?

I would just like to say to the audience, that if they haven’t had a chance to hear Bruckner live, or much at all, this is the perfect choice and chance to get closer to this major composer of 19th-century German Romanticism.


Classical music: African pianist William Nyaho gives FREE lectures, master classes and concert during his residency later this week at the UW-Madison School of Music.

April 7, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Ethnic diversity certainly matters to the current generation of music students who are helping to expand the field of classical music. Consider this letter sent to The Ear by a UW-Madison student:

My name is Ian Tomaz and I am a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. I am writing on behalf of our collegiate chapter of Music Teachers National Association which is hosting pianist William Chapman Nyaho on the week and weekend April 9-12 at the School of Music for a series of concerts, master classes and lectures. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear Nyaho discuss what he does on campuses, this time at the University of Arizona.)

We are hoping to get the word out about the event. He is an excellent pianist and teacher, and he is presenting a program of traditional classical repertoire as well as African classical music plus lectures on African music and the music business. In addition to being a great pianist, he is a wonderful human being. I really think that the public would enjoy these events and the man behind them.

Nyaho at piano 1 Raised Hand

Here is the official blurb we’ve been using in other advertisements:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison MTNA Collegiate Chapter is planning a great event in April. We are bringing in the pianist and teacher William Chapman Nyaho for a three-day residency on April 9-11.

Here is the schedule of events:

Lecture: African Piano Music: Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Humanities Building, Room 2531

Lecture: Business Aspects of Music: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 4 p.m. in Humanities Building, Room 1351

Masterclass for Pianists: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall

Piano Recital: Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall

Thursday night, April 9, at 7 p.m. in Room 2531: Nyaho will give a presentation and question-answer session about African piano music. He will discuss the melding of African and Western cultures found in classical piano music by composers of African descent.

William Nyaho portrait

On Friday, April 10, at 4 p.m. in Room 1351: Nyaho will give a presentation focused on several business aspects of music. He will draw from his own experience editing and compiling an anthology entitled “Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora.” He will also discuss the logistics of running his own private piano studio in Seattle.

Friday night at 8 p.m. in Morphy Hall, Nyaho will give a two-hour master class to four UW-Madison piano students.

On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Nyaho will give a solo piano recital of a mixture of Western and African classical music.

William Nyaho at piano 2

All events will be FREE and OPEN to the entire Madison community.

Here is more about Dr. Nyaho:

William Chapman Nyaho grew up in Ghana and studied music at Oxford University in England and in the United States. He is known around the world for his engaging piano performances of both Western classical music and piano music of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Nyaho compiled and edited a five-volume graded anthology of piano sheet music by composers of African descent published by Oxford University Press. This anthology represents a wide variety of newly published material and has become quite influential in the classical music realm by expanding the repertoire available to both students and concert pianists.

Nyaho has also released two critically-acclaimed CDs of his performances of solo piano music by composers from Africa and the African Diaspora.

William Chapman Nyaho

In addition to his performing and recording career, Nyaho is known for his sensitive and empowering teaching. Having served as Visiting Professor at many university campuses around the United Sates, he is universally praised for his authenticity, enthusiasm and artistry as a clinician and teacher.

You can read more reviews about Nyaho at his website http://nyaho.com/reviews.cfm, including one by Maya Angelou, who had this to say about him: “A talented young man with a rare mixture of youthful enthusiasm and mature reliability… intelligent, sensitive and possesses remarkable character….”

For his recital, he will be playing a mixture of Western and African piano repertoire, including the Piano Sonata Op. 31, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven. His specific program will be posted soon on the UW-Madison School of Music website at http://www.music.wisc.edu


Classical music: UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor says Bach wouldn’t mind being played on the piano and the public should get to know the less virtuosic side of Liszt. He plays concertos by both composers this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

April 6, 2015
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s guest Q&A is the acclaimed UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below), who won a bronze medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and who has been praised by critics around the world.

Christopher Taylor new profile

Taylor will play a big role this weekend in what, for The Ear, is the most interesting program of the season from the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below).

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The program, to be performed under the baton of longtime MSO music director John DeMain, includes the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt. The soloist for both is the dynamic and versatile Taylor (below), the resident virtuoso at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Christopher Taylor playing USE

The second half of the program is the Symphony No. 7 by the Late Romantic Austrian composer Anton Bruckner – the first time the MSO has tackled one of Bruckner’s mammoth symphonies.

Anton Bruckner 2

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.

Taylor recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

ChristopherTaylorNoCredit

What do you say to early music and period instrument advocates about performing Bach on a modern keyboard versus a harpsichord? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

In matters musical I hope to foster a generally tolerant attitude. I think our art form is a broad and diverse enough domain to allow for the peaceful coexistence of interpretations that pursue varied goals.

Some may seek to recreate, in as precise a way as possible, the experiences of listeners living back in Bach’s day, a perspective that can undoubtedly prove illuminating and satisfying for contemporary audiences.

Others may pursue interpretations that employ more recent, or even completely novel, musical resources, with results that Bach himself might well find startling were he suddenly to return.

Still, given Bach’s documented flexibility regarding instrumentation — the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 was probably originally composed for oboe — I like to think he would be open-minded both towards the piano’s sonority and the interpretive possibilities it suggests.

The piano’s rich and varied sound undoubtedly fits naturally into the modern concert hall setting, and for me personally its character is what I understand and appreciate best.  But again, I am always eager to learn about alternative approaches, and hope that others will listen to me with a similar mindset. (Below, Taylor is seen with the unusual two-keyboard Steinway piano he uses to play Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations.)

Christopher Taylor with double keyboard Steinway

How would you compare the Keyboard Concerto No. 4 to Bach’s other ones?

Like all the Bach concertos this work possesses irresistible energy and momentum, paired with lyricism and ingenious construction.  It strikes me as a particularly cheerful specimen — not so imposing or stern as the D minor or F minor concertos, for instance, but more modest in scale and upbeat in mood.

Right from the opening the first movement features an interesting back-and-forth relationship between the soloist and orchestra, with the keyboard seeming suitably soloistic on some occasions, more accompanimental at other moments, and completely united with the strings yet elsewhere.

The slow middle movement has particularly long phrases and sinuous lines, while the finale displays remarkable rhythmic variety, with relatively staid eighth notes taking turns with bustling sixteenth-notes and downright scrambling thirty-second-notes. (You can hear the Bach concerto for yourself in the YouTube video below that features the British pianist Nick Van Bloss who, curiously, suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome except when he is playing.)

A lot of listeners know you especially for your interpretations of modern and contemporary composers such as William Bolcom, Gyorgy Ligeti, Derek Bermel and especially Olivier Messiaen. But you are also known for your performances of the “Goldberg” Variations. What are the attractions of Bach’s music for you?

I find in Bach (below) the supreme balance of heart and brain. It is music whose intricacy provides endless material for intellectual stimulation and study, but which nonetheless, in its restrained and elegant way, evokes every imaginable shade of human feeling.

It is hardly surprising that composers as diverse as Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin and Arnold Schoenberg found inspiration in his immortal creations.

Playing his music is a foundational skill for me, providing essential training and background when I approach, for instance, the more recent composers whose challenging works you mention.

Bach1

Liszt is known as probably the greatest piano virtuoso in history who reinvented keyboard technique. How do you see the first concerto in terms of both deeper musicality and sheer spectacle and technical virtuosity?

While Bach may sometimes be stereotyped as hyper-academic and dry, the stereotype associated with Liszt is quite the opposite:  flashy and intellectually shallow.

Neither caricature captures the reality, and I hope that this week’s pair of concertos helps to illustrate the unexpected facets and depths of both composers.

While I have been familiar with the Liszt from a very early age, I only performed it for the first time fairly recently. While learning it I found myself continually surprised by its formal sophistication and intriguing quirkiness.

Certainly it has its moments of raw virtuoso display, but these only constitute one ingredient in a varied dramatic structure. Just as important are the lyrical characters (sometimes cut off short), the playful elements, the eccentric, the grand, the angelic. I have thus come to appreciate how experimental, individualistic, and sophisticated this work really is.

andsnes

How do you view Liszt as a composer compared to his reputation as a performer and teacher? What should the public pay attention to in the Liszt Concerto and is there anything special or usual you try to do with the score?

As I suggested above, I think there’s often a tendency to underestimate Liszt’s compositional import — although admittedly he did produce certain works that feed into the stereotypes distressingly well.

Liszt photo by Pierre Petit

I will hope to bring out this concerto’s interplay of characters and its individualism as vividly as possible. The virtuoso elements will play their part, but I do not wish for them to be the sole focus. (You can hear the concerto played by Martha Argerich in the YouTube video that is below.)

 


Classical music: Ethan Hawke’s documentary film “Seymour: An Introduction” about pianist Seymour Bernstein, is now playing at the Sundance Cinemas. Go see it. Don’t miss it.

April 4, 2015
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Yesterday brought an event The Ear has long been waiting for: The opening at Sundance Cinemas of Ethan Hawke’s 80-minute documentary film about the 81-year-old New York City-based pianist, writer and teacher Seymour Bernstein (below).

Seymour Bernstein close at keyboard

Bernstein, you might have heard, was a child prodigy and critically acclaimed adult concert artist who, beset by stage fright plus other mid-life crisis-like thoughts, at 50 decided to drop out of the concert life to devote himself to teaching, composing and writing.

Famed actor Ethan Hawke (below left, with Bernstein), who has also struggled with stage fright, met Bernstein at a dinner party and decided to make a movie about this extraordinary man. (At the bottom in a YouTube video you can hear Bernstein play a lovely and well-known Intermezzo in A major — Op. 118, No. 2 — by Johannes Brahms for his new friend Hawke at a tribute during the New York Film Festival.) 

Ethan Hawke and Seymour Bernstein

And by all standards, the film is an outstanding success.

For example, it gets a rating of 100 percent from the public website Rotten Tomatoes.

I don’t think I have ever seen a 100 percent rating at that particular website.

Yet it is not surprising.

The professional critics for major media are indeed no less unanimous in their praise than is the general public.

I offer proof. Here are samples, each of which touches on certain specific aspects of the film, but all of which praise the film unequivocally:

First, here is a previous post from this blog. It whetted my appetite and maybe yours:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=seymour+bernstein

Seymour bernstein 1

Here is the backstory about Ethan Hawke and Seymour Bernstein from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/arts/ethan-hawke-films-seymour-an-introduction.html?_r=1

And here is a five-star review from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/movies/review-seymour-an-introduction-is-a-lesson-in-perseverance.html

Here is another five-star review from Roger Ebert’s website:

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/seymour-an-introduction-2015

“Seymour” also gets high praise from The Wall Street Journal:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/seymour-an-introduction-review-striking-resonant-chords-1426186052

And from Rolling Stone magazine:

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/seymour-an-introduction-20150311

And here is one from The Denver Post that I like and expect you will too:

http://www.denverpost.com/movies/ci_27831096/ethan-hawke-film-chronicles-career-top-classical-pianist

That should be plenty to convince you to go see “Seymour: An Introduction.” I don’t know how long it is scheduled to play at Sundance. But if enough people go and see it, it may be kept there for another week or two.

Then The Ear could see it twice.


Classical music: Music for piano-four hands played a vital historical role in disseminating classical music and also in encouraging amateur musicians and a socially acceptable form of erotic intimacy.

April 1, 2015
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

First things first — a full disclosure because today is April 1 or April Fool’s Day.

april fools day

But this is no April Fool’s post. The Ear detests using the media, old or new, for April Fool’s stories and pranks. The Ear finds them stupid and reprehensible. They undercut credibility and insult readers or consumers by taking advantage of their gullibility.

So …

Yesterday, you may recall, I posted a preview of the upcoming recital this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. by pianists Peter Serkin and Julie Hsu at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/classical-music-pianists-peter-serkin-and-julia-hsu-will-play-works-for-piano-four-hands-by-mozart-schubert-schumann-and-brahms-this-saturday-night-at-farleys-house-of-pianos/

But as background, or perhaps an appetizer or teaser, I thought you might like to see a link sent to me by a professor friend at Stanford University. It covers a book by his colleague in German that offers not only history but also the role of four-hand playing in encouraging intimacy, a kind of erotic sensuality and sexuality that was socially acceptable. Then, too, music playing also bridged the worlds of professional and amateur musicians.

Whether or not you attend the concert at Farley’s, it is good to read the overview of the vital role that music for piano-four hands (below is the team of Varshavsky and Shapiro who perform quite often in the area) played in the history of Western classical music. They helped to disseminate into ordinary homes versions of the symphonies by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven at a time when hearing a real symphony was a rare occasion.

And of course they also encouraged Hausmusik — the playing of music in private homes before commercial concerts became established. A piano was like the CD player or radio or television of its day.

Stanislava Varshavski-Diana Shapiro

Madison hears its fair share of such music. It is always featured at the Schubertiades, held by wife-and-husband pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music in late January.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Such music has also appeared regularly at the free Friday Noon Musicales at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen Museum of Art, the annual Karp Family Labor Day Concerts, the summer Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, Farley’s House of Pianos, and other important series.

The Ear has enjoyed such music – in addition to the many social works by Franz Schubert, I have heard Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms, Slavonic Dances by Antonin Dvorak and Polonaises by Franz Schubert, for example — but was never fully aware of what, historically, he was listening to.

So The Ear found the historical essay fascinating and thought you might also appreciate it.

Here is a link to the essay:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/december/piano-monster-daub-120814.html

And here is a link to a YouTube video of the piece that is perhaps the crown jewel of piano-four hand literature — Franz Schubert’s late Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940 — performed by two of my favorite British pianists, Imogen Cooper and Paul Lewis:


Next Page »

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 929 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 1,238,080 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 929 other followers

%d bloggers like this: