The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: the Madison Symphony Orchestra recognizes local musicians with awards

June 30, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following news:

Several local musicians received prestigious awards from the Board of Directors of the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at the board’s recent June meeting in recognition of their musical contributions.

Margaret Rupp Cooper Award

The Margaret Rupp Cooper Award is presented in honor of the Symphony’s original harpist, who performed in the first concert in 1926 through the 50th anniversary season. The award is presented annually to two orchestra members based upon years of service, commitment to the orchestra, and musicianship. This year’s awardees were Naha Greenholtz, MSO Concertmaster, and Josh Biere, MSO Principal Tuba.

Naha Greenholtz (below, in a photo by Chris Hynes) has now completed her fifth season as concertmaster with the MSO. A graduate of the Juilliard School and winner of the prestigious Concertmaster Academy Fellowship at Cleveland State University, she has held numerous concertmaster positions and has participated in music festivals as both a performer and music director.

Naha Greenholtz 2014 CR Chris Hynes

Josh Biere (below) joined the Madison Symphony Orchestra as Principal Tuba in 2013. He also holds the principal tuba chair with the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Symphony and regularly performs with the Chicago Composers Orchestra. Mr. Biere holds degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University and Northwestern University.

Josh Biere tuba MSO

Marie Spec Award

The Marie Spec Award honors the Symphony’s long-time first violinist, who also played in the first performance in 1926. The award consists of a fund that provides both the concertmaster and Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist with an annual bonus. MSO Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and Chorus Accompanist Dan Lyons received this year’s award.

A Chicago native, Dan Lyons (below) holds performance degrees from DePaul University and a doctoral performance degree from UW-Madison. He has performed solo, concerto and chamber recitals throughout the Midwest. In addition to serving as the accompanist and chorus manager for the Madison Symphony Chorus, he maintains a private teaching studio and continues to accompany throughout the Madison area.

Dan Lyons

Ann Stanke Award

The Ann Stanke Award is presented in honor of the former Madison Symphony Chorus accompanist and manager for her years of excellent service. This year’s award was presented to chorus member Bob Gentile.

Bob Gentile, a lifelong music educator, has sung in the bass section of the Madison Symphony Chorus for over 15 years, has served as President and Vice-President, and has shown valued leadership with his counsel, wisdom, good humor and kindness.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra engages audiences of all ages and backgrounds in live classical music through a full season of concerts with established and emerging soloists of international renown, an organ concert series, and diverse educational and community engagement programs. Learn more at: www.madisonsymphony.org

 


Classical music: How will Brexit affect classical music?

June 29, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Over the past week, The Ear has heard a lot about the effect of Brexit – of the United Kingdom, and especially England, leaving the European Union – on national and international politics, on the economy and on culture in general.

BREXIT puzzle pieces

But he has not heard anything about how Brexit will affect classical music.

Until now.

Leave it to veteran British critic and blogger Norman Lebrecht to do some research and give you a taste of what Brexit could mean for classical music in England, a country that has such a long history of being a welcoming home to classical music and classical musicians.

Here is are link to some of his posts on his blog Slipped Disc:

http://slippedisc.com/2016/06/what-brexit-means-for-music-in-london/

http://slippedisc.com/2016/06/brexit-the-opera-fallout/

http://slippedisc.com/2016/06/opera-chief-leads-brexit-way-to-new-passport/

Do you have ideas about the effect of Brexit on classical music?

Tell us in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Madison Summer Choir addresses current events with outstanding performances of great choral music

June 28, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

For eight years, the Madison Summer Choir (below) has been giving an annual concert. This year’s, on Saturday night, under founder and conductor Ben Luedcke, was built around the theme “This is My Song! – Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice.”

Madison Summer Choir 2016 with piano JWB

And, indeed, Luedcke (below) introduced most of the selections with pointed remarks, addressing issues faced today, and the need for making ours a better world.

Ben Luedcke.1jpg

The first part of the program began with the “big tune” from Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, set to English words. This was sung a cappella, while the four short items that followed had piano accompaniment.

Two of those pieces—by composers Stephen Chatman and Sven Lekberg—carried poems by Walt Whitman, while another, by Joan Szymko, set a text by Wendell Berry. But the gem of the set was a short partsong, An die Heimat (To my Homeland), by that truly great choral master, Johannes Brahms. 

After the intermission, the chorus of 66 voices was joined by an orchestra (below) of 32, for the musical plateau.

Madison Summer Choir 2016 with orchestra JWB

Felix Mendelssohn is one of the handful of supreme choral composers (think of his oratorio Elijah!). As a warmer-upper, we were given his brief setting of Martin Luther’s translation of the Latin Dona nobis pacem as Verleih uns Frieden (Grant us Peace). (You can hear Mendelssohn’s beautiful “Verleih uns Frieden” in a YouTube video at the bottom)

But the true main event was a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s unfairly neglected cantata, Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night). This sets a ballad by Goethe portraying a band of Druids arranging to celebrate a holy solstice rite in the face of newly triumphant Christian intolerance. By making an unholy racket, they drive away their persecutors and launch the myth of St. Walburga’s Night (Walpurgisnacht, on April 30) as an occasion of Satanic rumpus (think Goethe’s and Gounod’s Faust).

The work calls for three solo singers (below), this time contralto Jessica Timman Schwefel, tenor Dan O’Dea, and baritone Ben Li (of whom the tenor was the most impressive). This score is one of striking dramatic effect and musical force, but it is too brief to find a place in most concert repertoire.

Madison Summer Choir 2016 3 soloists No. 2 JWB

Singers and players threw themselves into it with wonderful gusto under propulsive direction. We must thank Luedcke for giving us a rare chance to enjoy it.

The final piece was a movement from a choral symphony by Srul Irving Glick: making a truly splendid choral sound that, however, quite obliterated the uplifting words.

Overall, the program showed that Luedcke had nurtured, in a short time, a choir of nicely balanced and blended voices. With the best of their material, they made a wonderfully glowing sound.

One more example, then, of the quite stunning riches of Madison’s summer musical life!


Classical music: Concerts on the Square start this Wednesday and feature a lot of classical music. Plus, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra announces its impressive 2016-17 indoors Masterworks season

June 27, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Wednesday night at 7 p.m., on the downtown Capitol Square, marks the opening of what has been billed as “The Biggest Picnic of Summer” — the six annual outdoor summer Concerts on the Square (below) by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and guest soloists.

ConcertsonSquaregroupshot

They are big because each concert, under the baton of WCO artistic director Andrew Sewell, last year averaged a weekly crowd of more than 42,000 people, up from 35,000 the previous year, according to the Capitol Police. (The highest was 50,000; the lowest 28,000.)

Concerts on the Square crowd

You should also know that this year the Concerts on The Square will include a generous — maybe, The Ear suspects, even an unprecedented — amount of classical music on June 29, July 6, July 17, July 27 and Aug. 3.

On the programs you will find music by Felix Mendelssohn, Joaquin Turina, Aaron Copland and Ottorino Resphighi (this Wednesday); by Leo Delibes, Peter Tchaikovsky (including the annual and traditional Fourth of July or Independence Day performance of his “1812 Overture”) and Jules Massenet (with famed local Metropolitan Opera singer, mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss on July 6); by Paul Dukas, Jean Sibelius, Niels Gade and Antonin Dvorak (on July 13); Ludwig van Beethoven (July 27);  Arthur Honegger and Peter Tchaikovsky (Aug. 3).

Here is a link  with more information including links to tickets, rules about behavior and seating, and food options:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performance-listing/category/concerts-on-the-square

Even as it prepares for this summer’s six Concerts on the Square, which start Wednesday night, June 26, and run through August 3, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has announced its 2016-27 indoor Masterworks season of five classical concerts. It is an impressive lineup that features a local violist who has made it big, Vicki Powell, and the very young violin sensation Julian Rhee, who won the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Final Forte with a jaw-dropping reading of the Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms, as well as a guitarist and duo-pianists.

Here is a link to more information:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performance-listing/category/masterworks

 


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society brings invention and energy to superb performances of three masterpieces by Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn

June 26, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also took the performance photos.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society opened the final weekend of its 25th season at the Overture Center’s Playhouse on Friday night in a first-class program of three undeniable masterpieces.

The first was the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major by Johann Sebastian Bach. An appropriately sized chamber group (below) consisted of nine string players plus harpsichord, with the three soloists on two flutes and violin.

BDDS 2016 Bach Brandenburg JWB

The playing was clear and precise, with elegant flute playing by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt (far right) and Ivana Ugrčić (center)  and fabulous virtuosity from violinist Hye-Jin Kim (left).

BDDS 2016 Bach Brandenburg 4 soloists JWB

The second work was Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, K. 503. (Remember that this summer is the 25th anniversary season of BDDS.)

For this, the BDDS mustered a miniaturized orchestra of eight string players, three winds, and two substitutes (a violin for oboe, a cello for second bassoon). Though the concerto is a big-scaled one, this kind of performance suggests what might have been done in a salon musicale of the composer’s day.

BDDS 2016 Mozart PIano Concerto 25 JWB

For Jeffrey Sykes (below) as piano soloist it was a stellar outing, his playing marked by agility and vivacity. Also a bit of wit. For the first movement, he prepared his own cadenza, in which he carefully contemplated the main themes of the movement. When he came to the later part of its first theme, he discovered that its notes could become the opening notes of La Marseillaise (which had not been written yet). He carefully pondered, then moved on, unwilling to follow that explosive direction. (No Mozart on the Revolutionary barricades!)

jeffrey sykes

In all, it was a finely scaled-down performance, one that worked beautifully.

The last work was Felix Mendelssohn’s teenage miracle, the Octet in E-flat for strings. This work our eight players took on with a fine balance of exuberance and introspection—the fugal finale quite dazzling. (You can hear the final ,movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Part of the fascination of this score is how the young Mendelssohn was constantly able to devise, for each player, individual contributions to make to the whole. And actually witnessing the performance allows one to follow these interactions quite compellingly.

We could see the splendid musicians the BDDS brings together just relishing their chance to work together in such music. (And it was interesting to compare with the superlative excitement of the Willy Street Chamber Players when they performed it last summer.)

BDDS 2016 Mendelssohn Octet JWB

That makes 25 years of BDDS as of now.

Let’s have another 25, and maybe still another 25 after that — maintaining one of the happy mainstays of Madison’s summer musical life!


Classical music: Violinist Alexander Ayers gives a FREE recital on Monday night at Taliesin in Spring Green 

June 25, 2016
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Due to technical difficulties beyond his control at the web site host, The Ear cannot publish a new post today that has many links in the text. He apologizes and will let you know if and when the problems are solved. In the meantime, he will offer what he can.

By Jacob Stockinger

The following announcement has been sent for posting by The Ear by the Rural Musicians Forum:

Widely praised for his shimmering virtuosity and technical precision, violinist Alexander Ayers performs a FREE recital at 7:30 p.m. on this Monday, June 27, in a concert sponsored by the Rural Musicians Forum in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theater at Taliesin, south of Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Ayers (below, in a photo by O’Brien Photos of Waukesha), a native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, joined the Milwaukee Symphony in 2013. He was previously a member of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

After studying nine years at the String Academy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee he studied at Indiana University, and in 2006 he won the grand prize of the Milwaukee Symphony Stars of Tomorrow Competition. This resulted in performances of the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Prokofiev with the MSO. He has performed collaboratively with Joshua Bell, Alex Kerr, Jaime Laredo, Gilles Apap and Soovin Kim.

Alexander Ayers 1 CR O'Brien Photos

Ayers’ June 27 program is international in scope. It includes works by German-born Ludwig van Beethoven and Parisian Camille Saint-Saens as well as the Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaye and virtuosic Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski, who was regarded by many as an exciting and flamboyant re-incarnation of Niccolo Paganini.

About the concert RMF Artistic Director Kent Mayfield said, “We are honored to work in close collaboration with Taliesin Preservation Inc. to host much of this year’s series at Taliesin’s Hillside Theater (below). It provides an especially dramatic but intimate setting for Ayers’ performance which will be totally consistent with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision: imaginative, bold and beautiful.”

taliesin_hillside2

Hillside Theater is located at 6604 Highway 23, Spring Green.

The concert is not ticketed and is open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken to support the concert series.

For additional information and driving directions, see www.ruralmusiciansforum.org

 


Classical music: Technical difficulties prevent a long or complicated new post today. The Ear apologizes but offers an update about concerts this weekend by the Madison Summer Choir and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society

June 24, 2016
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Due to technical difficulties beyond his control and at the web site host, The Ear cannot publish a new post today that is long or complicated, or has many links in the text. He apologizes and will let you know if and when the problems are solved. In the meantime, he will offer what he can.

There are several noteworthy concerts taking place this weekend:

BACH DANCING AND DYNAMITE SOCIETY

The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society finishes up its Silver Jubilee summer season this weekend. The ensemble will perform two programs at the Playhouse in the Overture Center (Friday and Saturday nights) and in the Hillside Theater (Sunday afternoon and evening) at the Frank Lloyd Wright compound at Taliesin in Spring Green.

BDDS 25th poster

The “Quicksilver” program features: the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach; a reduced chamber version of the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 — a double string quartet — by Felix Mendelssohn.

The second program is “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” It features a miniature viola concerto, “Soul Garden,” by the contemporary American composer Derek Bermel; and then the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi and the “Four Seasons of Buenos of Aires” by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla. Movements from the two will be interspersed.

Here is a link with more information:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org/schedule.php

BDDS 2016 Mozart Flute Quartet Margaret Barker

THE MADISON SUMMER CHOIR

On Saturday night, at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus, the Madison Summer Choir (below), under the direction of Ben Luedcke, will perform a program called “This Is My Song: Music in the Struggle for Peace and Justice.” It includes music by Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Jean Sibelius and other composers. It features piano and orchestral accompaniments.

Here is a link with more information:

http://madisonsummerchoir.org

Summer Choir 2011 orchestraI


Classical music: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform its second-to-last concert with maestro Edo de Waart at the Wisconsin Union Theater next May

June 22, 2016
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Union Theater has announced some news:

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra with conductor Edo de Waart and Principal Cello Susan Babini will perform in Shannon Hall on Sunday afternoon, May 21, 2017 at 2:30 p.m.

edodewaart1

The program includes the Overture to the opera “Don Giovanni,” K. 527, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Schelomo, A Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” by Ernest Bloch; and the Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Opus 55, by Sir Edward Elgar.

Ticket prices are as follows: General public tickets are $49, $45 and $25, Union Member and non-UW students tickets are $44, $40 and $25, UW Faculty and Staff tickets cost $46, $42 and $25, UW-Madison student tickets cost $15, and youth tickets (age 6-18) cost $20, limit 2 with the purchase of a full-priced ticket.

Tickets can be bought online, by phone at 608-265-ARTS (2787) or in person, see locations and hours here

This performance will be conductor and former music director Edo de Wart’s the second-t0-last concert as MSO’s chief conductor. (His final ones are performances of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler on the following weekend in Milwaukee ) He has served as conductor also for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

De Waart was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal, and was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia. He is also a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. De Waart also has vast experience in opera conducting, from the Santa Fe Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera to the Royal Opera House.

The performance is presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Performing Arts Committee.


Classical music: What music would you play to honor and mourn the dead, wounded and traumatized victims of the gay night club shooting in Orlando, Florida?

June 19, 2016
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a week now.

A very long, hard and emotional week.

The Ear has heard some classical music dedicated to the victims — 49 killed, some 50 wounded and countless traumatized — of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, that took place one week ago. (Below is a vigil in support of the LGBT community.)

Orlando shooting vigil crowd 1

Others might choose a standard like the famous “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. It is undeniably moving and perfectly appropriate.

But so far the piece that most moved The Ear, unexpectedly, was a familiar one that aired on Wisconsin Public Radio: the “Nimrod” variation from the “Enigma Variations” by Sir Edward Elgar.

The Ear hears tenderness, gentleness and even love in the music. But in it he also hears strength, resilience and pride as well as sorrow, acceptance and resignation.

Plus, he likes the idea of enigma that is attached to it, given all the issues and questions — terrorism, Islamic radicalization and extremism, homophobia, self-hatred, hate crimes, gun control, protests, mass grieving — that still surround the incident and remain to be solved.

You can listen to the piece of music in the YouTube video at the bottom that features conductor Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It has more than 3 million hits.

But The Ear is also sure that there is a great deal of other music that would suit the purpose. They include:

The passions, oratorios and cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Requiems of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Giuseppe Verdi and Gabriel Faure.

The symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky and Antonin Dvorak.

The string quartets, piano trios, duo sonatas and other chamber music by Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert as well as the solo piano music of Chopin, Schumann and so many others.

The masses of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

The songs of Schubert and arias and choruses from all kinds of operas, but especially those of Giacomo Puccini.

And on and on.

Leave your personal choice, with a YouTube link if possible, and your reason for choosing it in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Don’t miss tango weekend at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society

June 15, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

If there was ever a genre of music created specifically for the talented, eclectic and fun-loving musicians of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, it is surely the tango.

It is hard to imagine a more perfect kind of music because it seems so suited to the temperament of the BDDS and its participants. The tango and BDDS simply seem made for each other.

BDDS 25th poster

The sexy and sensual tango has become both a popular and populist form of South American dance music. It started in brothels and then went mainstream. Then it crossed over into the classical repertoire, thanks to composers Astor Piazzolla, Carlos Guastavino and others.

If you have heard the BDDS perform tangos before, you know how captivating the performances are.

This weekend, the BDDS Silver Jubilee season will feature two programs with tangos, arranged by Pablo Zinger (below), a Uruguayan native who now calls New York City home.

Pablo Zinger at piano

Last time they performed, Zinger and his BDDS colleagues were absolutely terrific. The Ear will never forget the BDDS version of Piazzolla’s “Oblivion,” a fantastic, soulful and heart-breaking piece of music. (You can hear another version of “Oblivion” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here are links to the program with tango this weekend to be performed at the Playhouse in the Overture Center and in the Hillside Theatre (below) at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org/schedule.php

taliesin_hillside2

Besides tangos, there will also be music by Maurice Ravel (Piano Trio); Arnold Schoenberg (Chamber Symphony); Franz Schubert (Piano Trio No. 1); Joseph Haydn (Piano Trio No. 25, “Gypsy Rondo”); and movie music by Nino Rota, Henry Mancini and Luis Bacalov.

But featured prominently are tangos by Uruguayan composer Miguel del Aguila (below top) and by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla (below bottom), who turned to the tango of his native land at the advice of Nadia Boulanger, the famous French teacher of Aaron Copland, Philip Glass and others.

Miguel del Aguila

astor piazzolla

If you are looking for a preview sample, you can of course go on YouTube. But you could also listen to the new CD of South American tangos by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Not long ago, Jutt (below) spent a sabbatical year in Argentina, if The Ear recalls correctly. She clearly fell in love with tango music and is anxious to share her enthusiasm with others. That enthusiasm and her flair for the dance form show in the terrific performances on the CD.

Stephanie Jutt with flute

The new CD (below), on the Albany label, features pianists Elena Abend and the versatile arranger-pianist Pablo Zinger, whom you can hear live this weekend. It features 20 modern Latin American and Spanish works by Piazzolla and Guastavino as well as by Angel Lasada, the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Basque composer Jesus Guridi. (It is on sale at BDDS concerts for $15.)

Stephanie Jutt tango CD

Dance has always inspired classical music. Historically, the tango seems a natural modern progression from the Baroque minuets and allemandes of Johann Sebastian Bach, the Classical landler of Haydn, the Romantic waltzes of Franz Schubert and Frederic Chopin, the Hungarian Dances of Johannes Brahms and the Slavonic Dances of Antonin Dvorak.

But don’t take The Ear’s word for it.

Go listen for yourself. And be captivated, be transported. You won’t be disappointed.


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