The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What makes the 25th anniversary season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society special? The three-week annual summer season opens this Friday night and runs for the next three weekends in Madison, Stoughton and Spring Green.

June 7, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The big classical music event this week is the opening of the 25th anniversary season of the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

BDDS 25th poster

It was co-founded and is still co-directed by pianist Jeffrey Sykes, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley; and by Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute at the UW-Madison School of Music who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Here is a link to the BDDS website with information about tickets, programs, venues and performers:

http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org

Recently, Jutt (below) spoke to The Ear about the upcoming season, which runs June 10-26:

StephanieJuttNoCredit

“This silver anniversary season has something for everybody, and we’ve made it extra special in every way, with personnel, with repertoire and with audience favorites that we’re bringing back.

“In the first week, we have two short pieces by our featured composer, Kevin Puts “Air for Flute and Piano” and “Air for Violin and Piano,” and the world premiere of “In at the Eye: Six Love Songs on Yeats’ Poetry,” a piece we co-commissioned, with several other participating festivals, from the American composer Kevin Puts (below).

We commissioned him just before he won the Pulitzer Prize, luckily for us! We have performed several works by him in the past (“Einstein on Mercer Street,” “Traveler” and “Seven Seascapes”), and he will be here for the premiere performances at the Overture Playhouse and the Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen compound in Spring Green.

(NOTE: Composer Kevin Puts will speak about “How Did You Write That?” at the FREE family concert on this coming Saturday, to be held 11-11:45 a.m. in The Playhouse of the Overture Center.)

Kevin Puts pulitzer

“In Week 2, we have three crazy, inspired works by Miguel del Aguila (below), a Uruguayan composer from Montevideo, who now lives in Los Angeles, that we commissioned and premiered. We’ll be performing “Salon Buenos Aires,” the piece that we commissioned, along with “Presto II” and “Charango Capriccioso.”

Miguel del Aguila

During Week Two, we are also bringing back the amazing pianist, arranger and raconteur Pablo Zinger (below), also originally from Uruguay and a longtime New Yorker, to perform his arrangements of movie music by Nino Rota, Henry Mancini and others, as well as some of Pablo’s brilliant arrangements of tangos by Astor Piazzolla.

Pablo Zinger at piano

“In Week 3, we are bringing back the “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by Astor Piazzolla and the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. People have begged us to repeat this program for years. It’s one of the most thrilling programs we’ve done, and this seems like the perfect time to return to this beloved repertoire. (You can hear the Summer section of Piazzolla’s Four Season of Buenos Aires in the youTube video at the bottom.)

“In the same Week Three, you will also hear some favorite works, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by Johann Sebastian Bach and, in Week 1, Franz Schubert’s final song cycle, “Schwanengesang” (Swan Songs”) with one of our favorite artists, bass-baritone Timothy Jones (below top). That third week also features the Ravel Piano Trio with the San Francisco Trio (below bottom), comprised of Axel Strauss on violin, Jean-Michel Fontaneau on cello, and JeffreySykes on piano.

Timothy Jones posed portrait

BDDS 2014 San Francisco Trio

“We wanted to repeat special things and also do new pieces. Some of the music has links to the number 25 for our 25th anniversary – like Opus 25 for the Piano Quartet by Johannes Brahms or the Piano Concerto No. 25 by Mozart.

“We’re spending a lot more on artist fees this summer – it increases our budget by a lot, but it makes for a very special 25th season. We will have special mystery guests and special door prizes, as we love to do, and some special audience participation activities. (Below is a standing ovation from the audience at The Playhouse.)

BDDS 2014 Playhouse standing ovation

“Did we think we would reach 25 years when we started? Of course not! We didn’t even think we’d reach two. It was started on such a lark.

“But the festival resonated with the summer audience and has every single year. I think we’ve been a success because listeners love to approach serious music with a light touch. You don’t have to behave very seriously to play serious music in a serious way. Artists from all over the United States come to play with the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and it’s what draws them back year after year.

“We make a huge effort to make the music approachable, for ourselves as well as the audience. We talk about the music itself, about what it is like to learn it, and what it’s like to be together in such an intense way during the festival.

“We try to share the whole experience with the audience, and it’s something you just don’t find anywhere else. The concert doesn’t just go on in front of you, presented on a fancy plate. It surrounds you and you are a part of it.”


Classical music: Madison’s classical music critic Greg Hettmansberger has launched his own blog and has also been given a monthly slot on TV. Plus, this Wednesday night the UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Music Ensemble will perform a FREE concert of new music

January 24, 2016
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ALERT: This Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, directed by UW-Madison composition professor Laura Schwendinger, will perform a FREE concert of new works by “rising young stars.”

 On the program are: “Fluidity” by Yunkyung Hong; “Obnoxia” by Nathan Froebe; “Concerto da Camera II” by Shulamit Ran; Kay Ryan Songs by Laura Schwendinger; and a New String Quartet by Adam Betz.

Featured special guest performers  are pianist Christopher Taylor, cellist Leonardo Altino, Erin K. Bryan and percussionist Sean Kleve, of Clocks in Motion, as well as students Biffa Kwok, Saya Mizuguchi, Mounir Nessim, Steve Carmichael, Seung Jin Cha, Joshua Dieringer, Seung Wha Baek, Saya Mizuguchi, Erin Dupree Jakubowski and Yunkyung Hong.

Contemporary Chamber Ensemble

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the Madison-based classical music critics who deserves your respect is Greg Hettmansberger (below).

greg hettmansberger mug

Hettsmanberger has two news items to announce.

He has just launched his own blog called “What Greg Says.”

First, some background.

Since August, 2011 Hettmansberger has authored the blog “Classically Speaking” for Madison Magazine, and added a print column of the same name two years ago.

He was first published as a critic by the Los Angeles Times in 1988, and freelanced as a critic and features contributor for a number of newspapers and other publications in Southern California.

He began writing program notes in 1996, and is currently completing his 19th season as an annotator for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Moving to the Madison area in 2001, Hettmansberger was the director of bands for Abundant Life Christian School until 2008.

Now Hettmansberger has also been tapped by WISC-TV Channel 3, a local CBS affiliate, to appear once monthly on a morning show (at 6:40 a.m.) to offer previews, reviews and news about the local concert scene. He will get 3-1/2 minutes on the third Wednesday of each month.

Hettmansberger is a discerning listener and a fine judge of musicians and music.

That makes him worth paying attention to. He always has important insights into performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Overture Center and the countless chamber music groups in the area.

So perhaps you will want to bookmark his blog or subscribe to it.

The Ear will.

Here is a link:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com

Says Greg, in his typically modest manner, about his first major topic and posting:

“My blog space is up and running. In fact, I’ve posted twice. I still don’t feel fluent, but at least it’s serviceable, and my reviewing schedule begins in earnest this Friday.”

Presumably, he talking about a review of Friday night’s concert of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Francis Poulenc and Dmitri Shostakovich by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top)and piano soloist Adam Neiman (below bottom).

WCO lobby

Adam Neiman 2 2016

Here is the latest post, a reminiscence of Pierre Boulez (below), the avant-garde French composer and conductor who died recently at 90 and who gave Hettmansberger a personal interview that he recounts in his blog posting:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/merci-monsieur-boulez/

Pierre Boulez obit portrait

Wish Greg Hettmansberger well and leave your words of  congratulations in the COMMENT section.

 


Classical music: The Token Creek Festival celebrates Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker this Tuesday afternoon and evening with a forum, a picnic and a recital.

August 23, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Token Creek Festival write:

On this Tuesday, August 25, the Token Creek Festival shines a lens on one of Wisconsin’s most important artists: the American poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), whose recognition and appreciation have been delayed until recently.

Many poets of the 20th century have worked in what is broadly known as the Imagist mode: short lines, brief phrases, elusively stated thoughts. At its most eloquent it can give us the great range and imagination of William Carlos Williams, as well as decades of other very convincingly compressed writers from Emily Dickinson through Gary Snyder.

lorine niedecker

In Lorine Niedecker we feel the pressure of what has been left out, the hard journey to final shape. We infer a “story” behind it, and we marvel at the courage and art that set it down so briefly.

We can also admire the persistence that drove her to continue to write all through her life, when she received little support or recognition. Niedecker cleaned hospital rooms, and hung barely above the poverty level throughout her life, which she led mainly in a cottage on Blackhawk Island (below) near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. (You can hear a reading of her poem “My Life by Water” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Niedecker cottage Blackhawk Island

According to Ann Engelman, president of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, she “has been called the poet of place because her imagery is so grounded in the area where she lived. Basil Bunting called her “the Emily Dickinson of this century.”

As an objectivist poet, the simplicity of her images helps us sense our own experiences with the elements around us.” Niedecker (below, in a photo from her later years, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation) had a strange life that included a truncated college education and long stretches of isolation as well as an extended epistolary (and, briefly, physical) friendship with fellow poet Louis Zukofsky; her existence resonates in her verse.

lorine niedecker poetry foundation

Three years ago the Token Creek Festival began a concerted look at the land where the festival takes place (below, in a photo by Jess Anderson), exploring intersections between art and nature. The theme continues in the multi-part Niedecker-inspired event, “Paean to Place,” on this Tuesday.

Token Creek land:barn Jess Anderson

Here is a schedule:

  • 4 p.m. Forum. “Finding Lorine Niedecker” will introduce the poet through audio and video footage. A wide-ranging conversation between biographer Margot Peters and composer John Harbison will explore Niedecker’s work, and the event will conclude with performances of music inspired by, or settings of, her evocative texts.
  • 6 p.m. Picnic. Festival attendees are invited to a first -ever Token Creek picnic at the farm—an elegant feast of savory summer fare.
  • 7:30 p.m. Recital: “Longing for Place.” Pianist Ryan McCollough and soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon are two outstanding performers who represent their own youthful generation, searching for what is best and most characteristic in the work of their time. In 2015 our relationship to the natural world is even more fragile and elusive than it was to Lorine Niedecker. Still artists seek to frame that relationship, and render it with their new developing languages.

McCullough and Fitz Gibbon’s recital on themes of nature and place and longing includes works by Henry Purcell, Kaija Saariaho, Nicholas Vines and Robert Schumann, as well as new song cycles by John Harbison — a co-founder and co-director of the Token Creek Festival — and Niccolo Athens.

Harbison’s settings of Niedecker poems, commissioned by the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Music Festival and premiered there this summer, “let the words speak clearly, syllable by syllable, but he adds expressive space into the texts’ phrases and expands its melodic contours, heightening the sense of the poems being mediums of internal, very personal, monolog” (from the Tanglewood program booklet, July 2015).

Ryan McCullough with piano

Lucy Fitz Gibbon

“Paean to Place” is presented in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

Tickets are $15-$30 (students $10). Packages are available.

Tickets can be purchased by using the order form at the Token Creek website www.tokencreekfestival.org, by phone at 608-241-2525, by email at info@tokencreekfestival.org, or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705.

TokenCreekentrance

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The concert venue (below), indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events can be found at the website, http://www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608-241-2525.


Classical music: Here is an outline of this summer’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival. More details will follow soon. Plus, Wednesday night is the opening classical program of the FREE Concerts on the Square.

June 23, 2015
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REMINDER: Wednesday night at 7 p.m. is the opening concert of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s six FREE Concerts on the Square this summer. The program is classical and features Julian Rhee (below), the amazing 14-year-old violinist who has won several major concerto competitions, including those with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The program includes music by Alexander Glazunov, Piotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Johannes Brahms. Members of the Madison Ballet will also be featured.

Here is a link to general information about Concerts on the Square:

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

And here is a link to more information about Wednesday night’s program and soloist:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/concerts-on-the-square-1/

Julian Rhee with violin

By Jacob Stockinger

A reader recently wrote in and asked if the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival will take place this year.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

The question is understandable. So far, there has been no news.

But the Token Creek Festival will indeed take place this summer.

The Ear just received information about some of the basic events that will happen. More details will follow and fill in the programs.

Here is the official press release:

“With its 2015 season somewhat uncertain after a difficult winter, the Token Creek Festival is pleased to announce this summer’s programs, running August 22-30 this year.

August 22 and 23: “Founders’ Recital — Beginnings Revisited.” 
The concert centers on works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by festival co-founders and co-artistic directors John and Rose Mary Harbison (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

John and Rose Mary Harbison Katrin Talbot

August 25: “Paean to Place: Music and Nature and the Poetry of Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker.” The concert will feature
 pianist Ryan McCullough (below top) and soprano Lucy FitzGibbons. The program is done in collaboration with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, below bottom)

Ryan McCullough with piano

lorine niedecker

August 27: The Lydian String Quartet (below top) in works of Felix Mendelssohn, Lee Hyla (below bottom) and John Harbison.

Lydian String Quartet

Lee Hyla

August 29 and 30: Grand Finale featuring 
orchestral highlights of the high Baroque, including the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (below). (You can hear the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Bach1

More information about the festival will be forthcoming soon.

 


Classical music: A multimedia concert – including poetry, dance, video and photographs — of Latin American and Spanish music will be held this Friday night at 8 in the Promenade Hall of the Overture Center by Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society co-director and flutist Stephanie Jutt and others.

March 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends from the always unusual and always first-rate Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society write:

Can’t wait for our summer festival in June? Come to Flautistico!  The multimedia event will be held this Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. in Promenade Hall at the Overture Center. All tickets are $25.

Flautistico! is a continuation of co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt’s exploration into Latin American, Mexican and Spanish music. (Jutt, below in a photo by Dick Ainsworth, teaches at the UW-Madison School of Music and is also Principal Flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

This one-time-only concert will feature a wide variety of music from Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Spain that has never been performed at BDDS concerts.

Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano Yanzelmalee Rivera, Venezuelan clarinetist Orlando Pimentel, and Madison’s own fantastic collaborative pianist Thomas Kasdorf will join Jutt.

Flautistico collage

Composers include Jesús Guirdi, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Carlos Guastavino, Angel Lasala, and Astor Piazzolla, among many others.

Raquel Paraiso will weave poetry throughout the evening by Federico Garcia Lorca, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda.

Dance choreographed by Ariel Juarez and performed by Jacques Saint-Cyr and Maria Castello will complement the music of Piazzolla.

An original art installation by UW-Madison artist Carolyn Kallenborn, including her film footage from Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, will create a multi-dimensional concert evening.

Photos by Martin Chabi (below) will be projected during the concert.

Flautistico photo by Martin Chabi

To purchase tickets from Overture Center, visit: http://www.overturecenter.org/events/flautistico


Classical music: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin excels in a concert of songs, poetry and chamber music to a small audience hurt by competing concerts.

February 18, 2014
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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, who also took the performance photos. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who 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 Sound Ensemble Wisconsin is one of a number of new and enterprising chamber groups that has been developed in Madison in recent years.

This one is in its second season, and offered its second concert of that season in the Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison on Sunday night.

The group’s premise is to seek “a provocative and original approach to chamber music.”

Something of that aim was represented in the unusual seating plan set up in the auditorium, with double ellipses (below) surrounding the performing space.

SEW setup Barker

Further, for this concert, the approach was to match a number of vocal and instrumental pieces with readings of the poetry that provided the inspiration or even the very texts for the selections.  These were read by Katrin Talbot (below, far right), herself a poet, as well as an admired photographer and violist.

SEW Katrin Talbot Barker

The first half of the program offered (though not in this order) some songs. One, by Debussy, “Nuit d’etoiles” (Starry Night) , was sung by soprano Rachel Eve Holmes (below right) with pianist Jess Salek.  They were joined by violinist Mary Theodore, the group’s guiding spirit, and cellist Maggie Townsend to present one of Franz Joseph Haydn’s settings of Scottish folk songs.

SEW songs Barker

Without the soprano, this trio went on to present the Three Nocturnes of Ernest Bloch. The trio in turn yielded to a quintet (below), with Susanne Beia and Mary Perkinson, violins, and Chris Dozoryst and Jen Paulson, violas, joining Townsend in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Nocturne and Scherzo for String Quintet — for which Holmes returned to sing the English folksong, which inspired that gentle and thoughtful music.

SEW sextet Barker

The high point came as the closing music, Arnold Schoenberg’s string sextet (below), “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night), with cellist Parry Karp, acting as a last-minute substitution for Karl Lavine, joining the previous quintet.

In the past I have found that I much prefer the original chamber form of this remarkable 1899 work over the more commonly heard adaptation of it for string orchestra; though, to be honest, one does not often have a chance to hear either in live performances.  The chamber version allows the richly complex six-part writing to be heard more clearly, without the lush overload of the orchestral version. (You can hear it for yourself at the bottom in the YouTube video of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center playing the opening of “Transfigured Night.”)

SEW Schoenberg sextet Barker

I have also found that this outpouring of late-Romantic, hyper-chromatic polyphony makes particular sense when one can experience this music not only played close-up, as in this concert, but also in plain view.

The result is that one can really see as well as hear which instrument is doing what as the piece unfolds.  I note, in fact, that, thanks to this hearing, I understood better than before the important role of the first viola, even amid the propelling forces of Beia and Karp. All the players were caught up in a unified and impassioned performance that was simply riveting.

It was a pity that barely 30 people turned up as an audience.  Perhaps that was due to so much competition, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra concert among other things.

Still, those who attended certainly came away feeling richly rewarded by this experience, and with heightened awareness of the stimulating contributions to the Madison chamber music scene that SEW is making.

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Classical music: Sound Ensemble Wisconsin performs music and poems about love and night this Sunday evening. Plus, three guitarists perform new music for FREE this Friday at noon.

February 12, 2014
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark auditorium of the historic First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will feature guitarists Jamie Guiscafre (below), Chris Allen and Chris Murray in new music of Margaret Brouwer, Dan Cosely, Guiscafre and Justin Merritt.

Jaime Guiscafre

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement violinist and SEW founder Mary Theodore about an appealing and unusual combined concert and poetry reading that is coming up this Sunday afternoon:

“Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (below are some SEW musicians) follows November’s highly successful opening to their second season, “Sound Stories,” with a concert on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 5:45 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, the historic landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Performers for this concert are SEW musicians violinist Suzanne Beia, violist Chris Dozoryst, Jen Paulson, violinist Mary Perkinson, pianist Jess Salek, violinist Mary Theodore, Maggie Townsend, and guest artists cellist Karl Lavine and soprano Rachel Eve Holmes.

SEW group

“Sound Stories:  Of Love and Night” features 60 minutes of vocal and instrumental works based on nocturnal themes, many based on love poems or ballads. It seems like a program matched to Valentine’s Day weekend.

The program includes Ernest Bloch’s Nocturnes for Piano Trio (1924); Ralph Vaughan Williams‘ Nocturne and Scherzo for String Quintet (1906); and songs by Franz Joseph Haydn and Claude Debussy. The concert features Arnold Schoenberg‘s “Verklarte Nacht” (Transfigured Night) for String Sextet (1898), based on Richard Dehmel‘s poem of 1896. (The work can be heard performed under the direction of Pierre Boulez in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Poems by Richard Dehmel and Walt Whitman will be read by Katrin Talbot (below), a Madison violist and poet and SEW’s Artist-in-Residence for the 2013-14 season.  Talbot will also read the English translation for Debussy’s “Nuit d’Etoiles” (Starry Night).

Katrin Talbot face on

The performance will take place in the new Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at the First Unitarian Society.  Beginning at 5:45 p.m., the event will be timed with the sunset and last a little over an hour with intermission.

Tickets are $10 with cash, check or charge at the door.

Please note: Coming soon, SEW will be collaborating with Chef Dan Bonanno and Katrin Talbot for a truly unique and delicious event at “Pig in a Fur Coat” on Sunday, March 2, at 6 p.m.  More information and tickets are available at www.sewmusic.org.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

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