The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is Super Bowl Sunday, so The Ear asks: Who are the winners and champions in the concert hall? Here are the most popular pieces, composers and soloists. Plus, on Tuesday night, violist Elias Goldstein returns to perform Paganini’s fiendish Caprices in a FREE recital

February 7, 2016
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ALERT: The Ear has received the following note from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music viola professor Sally Chisholm, who also plays with the Pro Arte Quartet: “Elias Goldstein, who has a doctorate from UW-Madison (2011) and was a Collins Fellow, is playing a concert of all 24 Caprices, originally composed for solo violin by Niccolo Paganini, on VIOLA this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall. Admission is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

“On March 9, he will perform this program at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as the first violist ever to perform all 24 Caprices in one concert. This is such a feat that it is difficult to believe one of our own is accomplishing it. I was with him in Krakow, Poland when he performed 6 of them. He got standing ovations. He is professor of viola at Louisiana State University, won top prizes at the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Yuri Bashmet Viola Competition in Moscow in 2011.”

Elias Goldstein big

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the 50th Super Bowl of the NFL, and will be played by the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, near San Francisco.

It starts at 5:30 p.m. CST.

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars will perform in the half-time show. The Super Bowl will be broadcast live on CBS-TV.

super bowl 50 logo

So, one might ask in a society that loves competition, what constitutes The Super Bowl of classical music?

It is a source of endless discussion and often disagreement.

What classical music is the most mainstream, if not best?

Who are the big winners and champions in the concert hall?

A survey, compiled by a student at the UW-Milwaukee, of the most popular or frequently performed composers, works and soloists was recently conducted by the League of American Orchestras. The rest are for the 2010-11 season.

The No. 1 work is a YouTube video at the bottom. It is the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor by Johannes Brahms and is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its late music director and conductor Sir George Solti.

And on March 11, 12 and 13 the Madison Symphony Orchestra hosts TWO of the Top 10 winners: Pianist Emanuel Ax performing the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven. (The Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler completes the program.)

Emanuel Ax Philharmonia

Here is a link to the complete results along with the method used to gather data:

http://www.classicalmpr.org/story/2014/04/08/league-american-orchestras-performance-data

See what you think and leave a COMMENT.

Do they match up with your preferences and your choices of favorites?

In your opinion, what makes them so popular?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin opens its return season this Sunday night with an event that combines music, food and poetry.

September 8, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (SEW) write:

After Sound Ensemble Wisconsin’s 2014-2015 hiatus, which allowed director Mary Theodore to care for her new baby, SEW is pleased to announce its return for the 2015-16 season. Please stay tuned for news on the rest of the season.

What does food sound like? What does music taste like? This coning Sunday night, participants can enjoy a lovely evening out as they explore their senses as the pathway to their souls through the performing arts of food and music, accompanied by poetry.

The 2015 realization of 2014’s highly successful “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” is a collaboration between Sound Ensemble Wisconsin’s Mary Theodore (below left in a photo by Katrin Talbot); Chef Dan Bonanno (below right) of Madison’s celebrated restaurant Pig in a Fur Coat; and poet-violist Katrin Talbot (center).

SEW dinner poetry photon2

The event centers around the aesthetic similarities of food and music, both of which Mary Theodore, SEW’s director and violinist, considers performing arts.

This year, SEW has based the evening on a set of six Duos for Two Violins by Bela Bartok. (You can hear many of them performed by Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Each duo, or byte of music, will inspire Chef Bonnano and be paired with one course, or bite, of food — and performed/served as such to create a six-course meal, including a beverage pairing for each course. Talbot will also read her original poems, composed for each variation.

At the end of the meal, SEW musicians will perform the music from beginning to end with the aim of offering participants a new experience of the music, a new journey of taste and sound.

Please see the Wisconsin State Journal interview and the Madison Magazine review based on the highly successful 2014 “SEWing Taste and Sound, Bite by Byte” at SEW’s website: http://soundensemblewisconsin.org/press/

This performance will take place on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. at Pig in a Fur Coat, 940 Williamson Street. Tickets are currently on sale at www.soundensemblewisconsin.org and are $105 per person or $100 per person by check (with guests’ names) to: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, 716 Edgewood Avenue, Madison, WI 53711.

Performing musicians are Mary Theodore and Eleanor Bartsch (below), a prize-winning graduate of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Eleanor Bartsch

“SEW will certainly bring a new dimension to Madison’s cultural scene,” veteran music critic John W. Barker has written.

 


Classical music: UW-Madison-trained violist Jeremy Kienbaum, will perform a concert this Saturday to benefit his attending the Juilliard School.

June 11, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following request for coverage from a very worthy project.

Writes Jeremy Kienbaum (below):

Jeremy Kienbaum Headshot 2012

I was a student of David Perry and Sally Chisholm, who both play in the Pro Arte Quartet and teach at the UW-Madison School of Music.

I served as the Principal Viola of the UW Symphony Orchestra, the UW Chamber Orchestra and the University Opera orchestra.

Jeremy Kienbaum playing viola

I graduated this May with distinction and in September will start my Masters of Music degree at the Juilliard School in New York City with Samuel Rhodes (below), the retired violist of the famed Juilliard String Quartet who has also often performed and recorded with the Pro Arte Quartet in Madison.

Samuel Rhodes photo by Peter Schaaf (lower res.)

I am presenting a send-off concert on this Saturday night, June 13, at 7 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, before I leave for New York.

Admission is $20.

Jeremy Kienbaum poster

The program will feature the “Arpeggione” Sonata by Franz Schubert (with pianist SeungWha Baek, below, playing as a winner of the UW-Madison Concerto Competition); Figment IV for Solo Viola by Elliott Carter; the Eyeglasses Duo (with pianist Andrew Briggs) by Ludwig van Beethoven; and the Viola Sonata in E-flat Major by Johannes Brahms (with pianist SeungWha Baek).

Editor’s note: You can hear the beautiful Brahms sonata, played by violist Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Daniel Barenboim, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

SeungWha Baek playing

Proceeds from this concert will go towards paying tuition at Juilliard. I also have a GoFundMe page for donations.

You can find it at: http://www.gofundme.com/jeremykienbaum.

Thank you.


Classical music: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra gets a new, first-rate hall to perform in.

March 15, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

For a couple of years, the music news coming out of the Twin Cities has been pretty negative. It involved labor strife, personnel strife and economic strife.

But now something welcome and promising, in addition to the resurgence of the Grammy-winning Minnesota Orchestra under Finnish-born conductor Osmo Vanska, has emerged: A new state-of-the-art and unusual hall (below) as the musical home in Ordway Center for the acclaimed St. Paul Chamber Orchestra -– where the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director and the Madison Opera’s Artistic Director John DeMain once served as an associate conductor.

And, of course, a lot of Madison-area residents travel to the Twin Cities to see the sights and maybe hear the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. (In a YouTube video at the bottom, the orchestra performs Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D, with former music director Pinchas Zukerman conducting.)

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

So important is the new hall as an event that The New York Times sent out a critic to file a review. Here it is:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/arts/music/review-st-paul-chamber-orchestra-opens-its-new-concert-hall.html?_r=0


Classical music: A video of UW-Madison violinist Eleanor Bartsch serenading two elephants at Circus World in Baraboo with Bach goes viral — and makes a National Public Radio blog.

September 9, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This isn’t the first time that one or both of the extremely talented violinist Bartsch sisters — Alice (below top) and Eleanor (below bottom), who come from the Twin Cities — have made news and generated headlines during their time as students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, or even in the time following graduation.

Alice Bartsch

Eleanor Bartsch

But it may well be the first time that the event and headline went national, or even international.

Here’s the situation: Eleanor Bartsch played two gigs of the famous and beautiful Concerto for Two Violins by Johann Sebastian Bach with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top). (This  spring her sister Alice left her position as concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra.) One concert, at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, went well and without incident.

Then, she and her concerto partner, violinist Tim Kamps (below bottom) — who also studied at the UW-Madison and who is a member of the Kipperton String Quartet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra as well as the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — moved on to Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

WisconsinChamberOrchestrainCapitolTHeaterlobby

Tim Kamps playing

Just as an aside, Bartsch decided to use some of her warming up time, her practicing and rehearsing, to go serenade two of the elephants at the world-famous headquarters of Circus World with her part of the Bach concerto. The elephants started swaying in time and it was all captured on video and then posted on YouTube.

Eleanor Bartsch and elephant closeup

The Ear was put onto the elephant-violin encounter and its video – which runs under one minute and has been called “adorable” and “cute” by some viewers  — by a close friend and loyal reader of this blog.

But then the word spread like – well, like an elephant stampede. The video has gone viral with almost 2 million hits since August 24.

And of course someone who knows animals pointed out that the way the elephants were swaying was NOT really their way of dancing happily to the Bach rhythms and tune. It was instead a pitiful sign of what happens to animals in captivity when the are subject to obsessive compulsive behavior. Or perhaps what happens when they are in Musk (like heat or rut) and ready to reproduce. Or when they are ready to attack.

Some viewers even said it amounted to distress or animal abuse.

Here are the original videos:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/29/a-woman-plays-bach-on-the-violin-to-swaying-elephants-is-this-cute-or-cruel/

And then: VOILA

The outstanding blog Deceptive Cadence, put together by NPR or National Public Radio, linked that video to four other memorable and unusual music videos -– and included the objections from animal-lovers.

By the way, the other four videos are also well worth a look and a listen.

Here is a link to the more comprehensive NPR story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/09/05/345593233/five-new-classical-videos-you-need-to-see-to-believe

You can decide for yourself.

But somehow The Ear can empathize with those who do not like to see caged animals since I am among them. But I surely do not consider hearing violin by Bach as insult added to injury.

Make up your own mind – and let us know: WHAT DO YOU THINK? Thumbs up or down?

The Ear wants to hear.

And for the record and your listening pleasure, as they say on radio, here is a link to a great performance – WITHOUT elephants — of the same Bach Double Violin Concerto with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman:

 

 


Classical music: Under guest conductor Kevin McMahon of Sheboygan, the Middleton Community Orchestra rises to guest string soloists Daniel Kim and Eleanor Bartsch in Mozart, then warms up the winter with colorful Rimsky-Korsakov and lyrical Brahms.

February 28, 2014
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ALERT and REMINDER: Just a reminder that the Pro Arte Quartet will perform a FREE concert this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. The program features the WORLD PREMIERE of the quartet’s fifth of six commissions to mark its centennial. (Also on the work is Franz Jospeh Haydn’s Quartet, Op. 20, Np. 4, and Anton Bruckner’s Viola Quintet with guest Samuel Rhodes of the Juilliard School and formerly of the Juilliard String Quartet.) The new work is the String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier, who is in Madison to coach the quartet and attend the premiere, where he will be interviewed by John W. Barker preceding the concert at 7:15 p.m. And here is a link to a review of the new CD recording (below) of the first four commissions by Greg Hettmansberger, who writes Madison Magazine’s classical music blog “Classically Speaking.”

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2014/Pro-Arte-Quartets-New-CDs-Renew-a-Legacy/

pro arte cd commission cover

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 hosts 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

The third program in the current season of the Middleton Community Orchestra (below), on Wednesday night at the comfortable Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School, was a rich and ambitious one.

Middleton Community Orchestra Margaret Barker

For this concert, the regular MCO conductor Steve Kurr retired modestly to the viola and percussion sections, and yielded the podium to a visiting maestro, Kevin McMahon (below), a University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music alumnus who directs the Sheboygan Symphony.

Kevin McMahon MCO

Of three works on the program, the first was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. Well-known, especially from many recordings, the work is in fact rarely performed in concerts, perhaps because of the demand for two soloists of high and equal merit.

In this case, it got them.

Local violin star Eleanor Bartsch and Juilliard-trained violist Daniel Kim of New York City — but both distinguished and prize-winning former students in the UW School of Music — have known each other since childhood. They were clearly on a shared wavelength in this performance, paired beautifully in music that makes one glad to be alive. (At bottom, you can hear a popular YouTube recording of the work with violinist Itzhak Perlman and violist Pinchas Zukerman under the baton of Zubin Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.)

Eleanor Bartsch and Daniel Kim MCO Mozart

The orchestra, a sturdy accompanist in the Mozart, came into its own in the next piece, the flashy “Capriccio espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (below).  It is really a short five-movement concerto for orchestra, showing off a kaleidoscope of colors, and demanding a performance of virtuosic capacity.

Rimsky-Korsakov

Clearly, guest maestro McMahon had drilled the orchestra thoroughly, so that the performance was a stellar achievement for the MCO. And it also gave the concertmaster, Alice Bartsch, sister of the violin soloist in the Mozart, her own opportunities for some brilliant solo moments.

Alice Bartsch MCO concertmaster

Finally came the longest work of the night, the Symphony No. 2 in D Major of Johannes Brahms (below).

brahms3

This is perhaps the most genial of the composer’s four symphonies, but its lyricism conceals some challenging demands made on the orchestra.  Brahms requires absolute perfection of technique and fully polished sonorities. And so, precisely because it is a very well-known score, it really puts an orchestra like the MCO to the test.

The group met the test quite creditably. Perhaps out of mercy, McMahon dropped the first-movement repeat. He had some very good ideas about phrasing and nuances throughout, and the players worked hard to put them to good effect.

Indeed, the performance gave one a chance to assess the community orchestra’s progress in no more than its fourth season of existence.

Well, there are still concerns to be faced. There are rough elements in the brass playing, but the woodwinds provide a secure and reliable anchor for the orchestra. The strings still lack that full sheen we might crave, but they are growing in security and discipline, especially the violins.

And so, after not that much time in the growing yet, music director and usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) has succeeded in building the MCO into a treasure for the city of Middleton and a genuine asset to the musical life of the Madison area. It deserves all possible support and encouragement — and attendance.

Steve Kurr conducting

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Classical music Q&A: Conductor-violist Mikko Utevsky discusses his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the lessons he brings to the concert Friday night by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra. Plus, please leave word if you are going to play the piano at Friday’s “Make Music Madison” festival.

June 20, 2013
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REMINDER: This Friday is the Summer Solstice and the first-ever Make Music Madison citywide festival. If you plan to play on one of the four acoustic pianos being provided at fire stations around the city (no previous sign-up is required), or do other performances, please leave word in the COMMENT section with your name, the piece you will play, the place and the time. Here are links to previous posts about the event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/classical-music-the-free-make-music-madison-festival-on-the-summer-solstice-friday-june-21-has-lined-up-four-acoustic-open-mic-pianos-at-four-fire-stations-around-the-city-so-lets-get-p/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/classical-music-on-friday-june-21-the-summer-solstice-madison-will-be-filled-with-outdoors-music-by-the-first-make-music-madison-citywide-festival-but-so-far-no-acoustic-piano-is-available-for-p/ Make Music Madison logo square By Jacob Stockinger

Friday is the Summer Solstice.

And that means there will be a lot of music performances in the Madison area since it is also the date of the inaugural Make Music Madison festival.

But once of the stand-out events is a performance by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which was founded a couple of years ago by Mikko Utevsky (below), a violist who at that time was a student at Madison East High School and a violist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

The MAYCO concert is at 7:30 in Old Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus. The program features Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, with soloists violinist Eugene Purdue and violist Deidre Buckley; Aaron Copland’s “Our Town” and Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with narrator Lori Skelton.

Admission to the concert, called “A Tribute to Educators,” is at the door and costs $5 for adults and donations for students.

Conductor Mikko Utevsky, who wrote posts for this blog from the WYSO tour last summer to Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and who just completed his freshman year the UW-Madison School of Music, recently gave an email interview to The Ear.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

You just completed your first year at the UW-Madison School of Music. How did it go? What lessons do you bring to the upcoming concert by MAYCO?

I had an excellent first year – the faculty is superb, and it’s an exciting, collaborative environment. During the school year, I try to focus as much as possible on the viola. I am, after all, a performance major, and while I hope to make a career of conducting, right now I am first and foremost a violist. MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

When I first spoke with Professor Smith about studying conducting, his advice was to become the best violist I could. That’s what I’m doing. Prof. Sally Chisholm (below) is a wonderful teacher, and I am learning a great deal from her. The viola studio at the UW is great.

Sally Chisholm

Over the summer, I have some more time to work on my conducting: I have been taking lessons with Prof. Smith (below), and spending more time with my scores, library work and much, much more time on the phone finding players.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

I think out of the whole year, the greatest influence on my work with MAYCO didn’t come from lessons. In the past, I’ve been wary of the Classical repertoire; it poses particular stylistic problems that can be difficult to address with a youth orchestra. I am coming to it with a new appreciation and understanding founded in my music history class with Professor Charles Dill and Charles Rosen’s book “The Classical Style” (below).

Charless Rosen The Classical Style

I had the fortune to end up reading it during the class, and together it and Prof. Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) opened my ears to a new way of hearing this music, a way that leaves much more room for growth than the way I was used to listening. That’s a large part of why we’re doing three Classical works this summer (one each by the Big Three — Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven).

Charles Dill

Which direction do you want to pursue as a career — violist or conductor– and why?

My hope is to become a conductor, hopefully working with a university orchestra or youth symphony program. I love to teach, and want that to be a part of my work some day. I do not plan to give up the viola, of course; at the very least I will continue to play chamber music for as long as I can still hold my bow.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What would you like to say about the soloists and narrator?

Diedre Buckley (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) was my first viola teacher, all through middle and high school. She and Gene Purdue (below bottom) both have thriving private teaching studios in Madison, and have several students in the orchestra — about half of the violins and violas are current or former students of theirs. They are both fantastic players and teachers, and bring a lot to the stage in terms of both experience and musicality. It’s been a real pleasure working with them this week, for me and the orchestra.

Deidre Buckley Katrin Talbot

Eugene Purdue 1 Thomas C. Stringfellow

Lori Skelton (below) does a lot of the classical programming on Wisconsin Public Radio. I’ve been listening to her “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” since it was “Live From the The Elvehjem,” and frequently tune in for her Afternoon Classics when I’m not in school. She is a wonderful storyteller with a wonderful voice, and working with her on Peter and the Wolf has been a lot of fun. Lori Skelton

What would you like the audience to know about the pieces on the program?

This isn’t quite your typical Overture/Concerto/Symphony program. For starters, the symphony and the concerto are the same piece: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364. This is probably the greatest piece in its genre, conceived on a more symphonic scale than most of Mozart’s middle concertos, and runs more than half an hour in length. (You can hear the opening in a YouTube video with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman at bottom.) It has wonderful orchestral writing, more substantial than one would expect from a simple concerto, and it uses double viola sections to match the soloist.

We’re opening the program with music by Aaron Copland (below) to the 1939 film adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” — both the movie and the score got Oscar nominations, though they both lost. It’s a beautiful piece with a very characteristic Copland sound, depicting life in a fictional New England town.

aaron copland

Finally, we are playing the famous orchestral fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Serge Prokofiev (below). This work usually gets programmed on children’s concerts, and is seldom appreciated for its musical value, which is considerable (despite the rather silly — if charming — story). Lori Skelton will narrate the work.

Serge Prokofiev

Can you tell us any news about MAYCO and its plans, and about the same for yourself?

We have another concert coming up on August 9, also at 7:30 in Music Hall, for which we are still accepting players. The program is “New Horizons,” and includes Beethoven’s First Symphony; Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with Madison native and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below top); and a new work by the local composer, singer and conductor Jerry Hui (below bottom).

Ansel Norris

Jerry Hui

We will be back next summer, of course. And while I have a pretty good idea of what we’ll be playing, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. As usual, I can promise variety of programming, some solid Classical works, and a spotlight on local artists.

As for me, I’ll be performing some solo Bach at the Madison Area Music Awards this weekend, taking a bike trip in July, camping, and preparing for our August concert.


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