The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Gargoyle Brass and organist Jared Stellmacher perform Tuesday night

October 16, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement:

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) opens its new 2016-17 Overture Concert Organ Season with the sounds of brass and organ, marking the return of Chicago’s Gargoyle Brass (below top) with organist Jared Stellmacher (below bottom).

Gargoyle Brass

Jared Stellmacher 

The concert is this Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street.

In addition to performing works by Charles-Marie Widor, Cesar Franck, Maurice Ravel and Alexandre Guilmant, Chicago’s Gargoyle Brass with organist Jared Stellmacher will perform The Dwarf Planets composed by Williams C. White, continuing MSO’s exploration of the universe that commenced with their season-opening concert, The Planets: An HD Odyssey in September.

Gargoyle Brass captured the Dane County Farmers’ Market audience in 2013 with an exciting program, which was enhanced by Stellmacher’s playing.

Subscriptions to all four organ concerts this season are available for $63, a 25% discount, at or by calling (608) 257-3734.

General Admission for each Overture Concert Organ performance is $20. Tickets can be purchased at, (608) 258-4141 or the Overture Box Office.

Student Rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $10 tickets.

This performance is sponsored by Friends of the Overture Concert Organ. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the stunning backdrop of all MSO concerts.

Overture Concert Organ overview


Classical music: The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society seeks amateur photos from the public for a slide show to accompany Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” in June. Plus, Mikko Rankin Utevsky gives a FREE viola recital Sunday night

April 9, 2016
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ALERT: Blog contributor and all-round musician — violist, conductor and singer as well as critic — Mikko Rankin Utevsky sends the following word:

Dear friends: I’m giving my senior viola recital this Sunday evening, April 10, the culmination of my four years of study here at the UW-Madison. On the program are a pair of powerful and evocative works from 1919: the Viola Sonata of Rebecca Clarke, and the Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch. Pianist Thomas Kasdorf joins me for the program, which is at 7 p.m. at Capitol Lakes, off the Capitol Square, at 333 West Main Street. I hope to see you there!

P.S.: Thomas and I are giving another recital – with me singing this time – on Tuesday, May 10, at 7 p.m., also at Capitol Lakes. On the program are assorted songs by Samuel Barber, Kurt Weill, Charles Ives, Robert Schumann, and Claude Debussy, and the “Songs of Travel” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. If you can’t make this one, see you in a month!

By Jacob Stockinger

Multi-media concerts seem to be catching on, perhaps in an attempt to attract new and younger audiences.

Next season the Madison Symphony Orchestra will do two of them: Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with a hi-definition film made by NASA for the Houston Symphony Orchestra; and a Beyond the Score with “Scheherazade” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, accompanied by photographs plus actors Jim DeVita and Brenda DeVita from American Players Theatre in Spring Green.

Doing mutli-media is nothing new for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which is always experimenting and looking for novel approaches to classical music. But the group is expanding how it is done in an impressively populist way.

Here is an announcement from The Ear’s friends at the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which turns 25 this summer:

BDDS silver jubilee logo


Have you taken photos of your favorite time of year?

Visual artist Lisa A. Frank will be creating photographic scenery for this year’s “Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society” concerts at the Overture Center for the Arts.

The program on June 25 will include the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. For this concert, a photo collage of the four seasons – like Frank’s spring image of bird eggs and feathers in a nest and the fall image of gourds – will be projected on a large screen behind the musicians.

(You can get a sense of it from the popular YouTube video at the bottom, which features the “Spring” section of the four string concertos that make up “The Four Seasons.)

Lisa Frank Spring Birds eggs



Lisa Frank (below) invites amateur photographers of all ages to participate in this concert by sending up to 5 of your best shots depicting any aspect of any season.

Lisa Frank

The images can be in jpeg, tiff or Photoshop format. If your photograph is included, you may be asked to resend a higher resolution image. (Below is a summer photo of a flower and butterfly.)

Lisa Frank Summer Butterfly

All featured photographers will receive a video of the final result.

Up to 100 photos will be selected.

Send your photographs by Sunday, April 18 to:

And here is a link – with information about programs, performers, venues and tickets — to the new summer season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which celebrates the group’s 25th anniversary or Silver Jubilee:

Classical music review: The Middleton Community Orchestra opens its new season with British music by Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams that highlights its remarkable talent and high quality.

November 17, 2012
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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 hosts an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT 88.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the MadisonEarly Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

By John W. Barker

The season’s opening concert for the Middleton Community Orchestra (below), held last Wednesday night at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, was something of a mixed bag.

The program title, “The British Are Coming” was a little strained. Of five composers represented, one was a German-born naturalized citizen and another a Belgian who never left home (except to concertize). At least the other three were undoubted Britons.

The printed program, too, omitted a lot of significant information. The opening number was not the complete “Royal Fireworks Music” by Georg Frederic Handel, but only its long overture. Played in the full-orchestra version (complete with repeat of the fast middle section), but with too big a group here, the music found the players sounding tentative and not fully comfortable with it, while the pacing by conductor Steve Kurr (below) was stiff and rigid.

Everyone was more at ease with the follow-up, Sir Edward Elgar‘s “Pomp and Circumstance” March No. 4, however at bottom).

Naha Greenholtz (below), concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, was soloist for the program. She began with the Second of six Sonatas for unaccompanied violin, by the Belgian violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931). Each in the set was dedicated to a great violinist of the day. This one honored Jacques Thibaud, and its four brief movements (not listed in the program) are “Obsession,” “Prelude” “Malinconia,” “Danse des ombres,” “Sarabande” and “Les furies.” This is extremely difficult and virtuosic music, and Greenholtz brought it off with aplomb.

Without a break, she then launched into Ralph Vaughan Williams’ lovely pastorale, “The Lark Ascending,” with accompaniment conducted by her husband, Kyle Knox (below), a clarinetist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The elaborate solo part–again performed with skillful precision–is backed by a modest accompaniment from a chamber orchestra, rich in evocation of the English folksong style Vaughan Williams (below) loved, all reminding us how desperately we need to hear more of that great composer’s music.

The real meat of the concert, though, was a partial serving of the blockbuster “Astrological Suite” by Gustav Holst (below). Of its seven movements, the MCO gave us four–if, again, without full identification in the program list. Indicating their number in the complete cycle, and restoring their important subtitles, we heard: 1. “Mars, The Bringer of War”; 2. “Venus, The Bringer of Peace”; 6. “Uranus, The Magician”; and 4.” Jupiter, The Bringer of Jolity.”  Omitted were “Mercury, The Winged Messenger”; “Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age”; and “Neptune, The Mystic.” The last of those requires an offstage women’s chorus, not mustered here. On the other hand, the performance managed to bring off No. 6 without its chilling organ glissando at the climax.

For the full suite, a massive affair often performed and recorded, high playing standards are well established. Against those, maestro Kurr and his brave players made a fully credible showing. They clearly had worked very hard on this music, and displayed a palpable confidence. They roared out the grim menace of Mars with full-blooded power. There was particularly fine string sheen in Venus. The “big tunes” of Uranus and especially of Jupiter blared out with thoroughly British heartiness.

My only regret was that Kurr and his players had not gone whole-hog and tackled the entire seven movements.

Once again, we must marvel at what Steve Kurr has achieved in building so able an orchestra (below) out of a mix of local talents and limited rehearsal time.

Three more concerts lie ahead this season. For information about performances, how to join and how to support the MCO, visit:

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