The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A FREE concert of Polish piano music is on this Sunday afternoon at the UW-Madison

October 20, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

On this Sunday afternoon, Oct. 21, at 4 p.m., University of Oklahoma Professor Igor Lipinski (below) will perform a solo piano recital with commentary at Mills Concert Hall of UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music. Mills Hall is located at 455 North Park Street in the George Mosse Humanities Building.

At this FREE CONCERT, Lipinski will perform music by 19th through 21st century Polish composers: Fryderyk (Frederic) Chopin, Karol Szymanowski, Ignaz Jan Paderewski, Grazyna Bacewicz and Pawel Mykietyn. (Editor’s note: Sorry, no titles of specific works are listed.)

Since classical music from Poland has been rarely performed in concert halls in Madison, this recital will be a unique occasion to experience Poland’s musical heritage and diversity.

This concert also commemorates the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence at the conclusion of World War I, after 123 years of its partition and disappearance from the map of Europe.

Please join our local Polish community in celebrating this joyous occasion through appreciation of beautiful and captivating music from some of the Poland’s most important composers.

This event is organized by the Polish Student Association of UW-Madison and Mad-Polka Productions, with cooperation and financial support provided by Lapinski Fund (UW-Madison German, Nordic and Slavic Departments) and the Polish Heritage Club of Madison as well as the Sounds & Notes Foundation from Chicago.

ABOUT THE PERFORMER:

Prof. Igor Lipinski is native to Poland and currently teaching at the University of Oklahoma. At the age of 12, he won a Grand Prize at the Paderewski Piano Competition for Young Pianists in Poland.

He is a musician, piano teacher, performer and also a magician, sometimes surprisingly combining all of his interests during his performances.

He received his Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from Northwestern University and since then performed over 100 concerts, both solo and with orchestras, all over the U.S.

This will be his debut in Madison.

For more information, go to: www.igorlipinski.com

ABOUT THE COMPOSERS:

Fryderyk (Frederic) Chopin (1810-1849, below): He was born in Poland, but also composed and performed in Germany, Vienna and France. Probably the most prominent Polish composer as well as pianist and performer. Much of Chopin’s inspiration came from Polish village music from the Mazovia region. Chopin composed 57 mazurkas – the mazurka being one of his most beloved type of compositions. He also composed numerous polonaises, concertos, nocturnes and sonatas. (You can hear famous Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein perform Chopin’s famously nationalistic “Heroic” Polonaise in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937, below): Part of “Young Poland” group of composers at the beginning of 20th century, Szymanowski composed operas, ballets, sonatas, concertos, cycle of songs, string quartets. Many of his compositions were also inspired by Polish folk music, including the famous ballet “Harnasie” based on the culture of Polish highlanders which he experienced while living in Zakopane.

Ignaz Jan Paderewski (1860-1941, below) was a remarkable figure in Poland’s turn-of-the-century history. He was a pianist, composer, statesman, politician, philanthropist, actor, businessman, patron of the arts and architecture, wine grower and humanitarian. As a pianist, he was praised for his interpretations of music of Chopin, Liszt, Bach and Beethoven. He successfully toured western Europe before eventually setting off for the USA. Starting with his first 1891 tour he crossed U.S. about 30 times in his 50-year career.

He was a very popular, charismatic and somewhat extravagant figure, which eventually resulted in “Paddymania” phenomenon. He was largely influenced by Chopin in his composition of sonatas, concertos, polonaises, Polish dances, symphonies, mazurkas, krakowiaks, minuets and even one opera. He also relentlessly supported and lobbied for Poland ‘s independence as World War I unraveled.  He influenced U.S. politicians and played a crucial diplomatic role in Poland regaining its independence in 1911.

Grazyna Bacewicz (1909-1969, below): Violinist, pianist, teacher, writer and composer, she was one of the few female classical music composers at the time in Poland and in the world. Thanks to a generous grant from Ignaz Jan Paderewski, she was able to study music in Paris. She composed numerous concertos, string quartets, sonatas, symphonies.

Pawel Mykietyn (1971-, below in a photo by Oliva Soto): Composer, clarinetist, member of Nonstrom Ensemble. In 1995, he won a first prize in the young composers category during the UNESCO composers competition in Paris. Mykietyn’s composing style is at times aggressive and postmodern, incorporating sharp rhythms to create a vivid and provocative sound. He has composed concertos, sonatas, symphonies, preludes and string quartets.

Thanks to all the sponsors and community support, this concert is FREE and open to the public.


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Classical music: The Festival Choir of Madison performs under famed choral conductor Joseph Flummerfelt this Saturday night.

May 6, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following timely and important announcement:

The Festival Choir of Madison (below) and its new artistic director Sergei Pavlov – who teaches at Edgewood College — will close the current season with a special concert this Saturday night, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.

Festival Choir of Madison at FUS

The performance features one of the legendary American choral conductors, Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt (below right, with Sergei Pavlov). You can hear a long Q&A interview with Joseph Flummerfelt in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Sergei Pavlov (l) with Joseph Flummerfelt

The program with the Festival Choir includes music by German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, British composer Herbert Howells, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki and Scottish composer James MacMillan. Sorry, no word on individual works to be performed.

Tickets for the evening concert are available at the door and cost between $9 and $15.

Since 1971, Joseph Flummerfelt (below) has been responsible for most of the choral work of the New York Philharmonic, working closely with its music directors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert. Until 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities in the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

Joseph Flummerfelt conducting side

Joseph Flummerfelt (below) with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists has been featured in 45 recordings, including a Grammy Award-winning CD of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with Leonard Bernstein. His collaboration with the great American composer Samuel Barber includes the Grammy Award-winning recording of Barber’s opera “Anthony and Cleopatra.”

Joseph Flummerfelt conducting frontal

In 2004 Flummerfelt was awarded a Grammy for the New York Choral Artists’ recording of “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition written by John Adams in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the world. Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below) — the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, who, as a teenager, studied with Dr. Flummerfelt in two advanced conducting summer workshops — cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”

Yannick Nezet-Seguin close up

Flummerfelt has a special connection with Madison as well. As an undergraduate student in De Pauw University in Indiana, he was deeply inspired by a performance of a visiting choir, and the conductor of this group was Robert Fountain, the legendary Director of Choral Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Also on Saturday, May 7 at 11 a.m. there will be a question/answer session for all who would like to meet the Maestro Flummerfelt. The host is Edgewood College, and the session will be at the Washburn Heritage Room in the Regina Building. This is a FREE event.


Classical music: Another Stradivarius violin is rescued – and teaches us a valuable lesson about loss and perspective.

August 9, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Stradivarius violins may be rare, but they have sure come in for their share of adventure in the past year and a half.

First, there was the theft of the “Lipinski” violin owned and played by Frank Almond, the Paganini Competition-winning concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

That story made national headlines.

Now comes word of a second Strad (below) that has been rescued 35 years after it was stolen.

Ames Totenberg Stradivarius

This violin belonged to Roman Totenberg. He was the concertizing violinist and violin teacher at Boston University who was the father of the well-known and prize-winning legal affairs reporter for NPR, or National Public Radio, Nina Totenberg (below center with her two sisters). She is probably best known for her stories on the U.S. Supreme Court. When her father died in 2012 at 101, she also did a memorable obituary.

(At the bottom in a YouTube video, you can hear Roman Totenberg playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of his 90th birthday.)

Stradivarius Totenberg sisters

Roman Totenberg bought the so-called Ames Stradivarius for $15,000 in 1943. It is now said to be worth tens of millions of dollars after restoration. But his daughters promise it will be sold to a great violinist who will play it and perform with it as their father did — and not go into some museum or investment collection.

The story was all over the media -– maybe because it was good news amid so much bad news, a happy ending amid so many unhappy endings.

And what do you say when Nina Totenberg explains that her heart-broken father, who suspected who the thief was, moved on after the theft and bought another violin – a Guarneri del Jesu -– because he had personally suffered much bigger losses such as the deaths of his family in Nazi death camps during World War II.

That is perspective at a time when we sorely need perspective, especially about the worth of material objects versus humanist values.

Here is a story from NPR in which Nina Totenberg takes part and in which you can hear excerpts of her father playing a violin and piano sonata by Johannes Brahms and solo violin music by Johann Sebastian Bach:

http://www.npr.org/2015/08/06/427718240/a-rarity-reclaimed-stolen-stradivarius-recovered-after-35-years

And here is the big story it got in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/music/roman-totenbergs-stolen-stradivarius-is-found-after-35-years.html


Classical music: Are iPhones and YouTube videos killing off live musical performances? The outspoken Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman said he thinks so as he walked out of a recital being illegally recorded in Germany.

June 10, 2013
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It seems that these days just about everybody has an iPhone or some other small, convenient and easily concealed smart phone that can take and email photos and videos.

iphone 5

And those photos and videos can change the world. They certainly fostered the Arab Spring  (below) and other populist uprisings and protests, including those that led to the democratization of Burma/Myanmar and to the current civil war in Syria.

arab spring

But it can also have downside, especially where the performing arts are involved and where questions of intellectual property are centrally involved.

Witness the recent episode in which the acclaimed and award-winning Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman (below), known for his playing of Chopin and his championing of Polish music, who was angry and annoyed when he stormed off the stage at a festival in Germany after someone in the audience refused to stop filming the recital on his iPhone.

krystian zimerman gray

It is food for thought, and it raises a lot of issues, including intellectual copyright as well as mass media and citizen reporting and blogging, to say nothing of private use.

It seems to The Ear that all of this is the logical outcome, change or consequence of the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter and our changing notions of privacy. And it seems hard to allow it and praise it in one sphere of life yet try to contain its influence in another.

facebook logo

you tube logo

And of course it goes way beyond the rudeness of people who don’t turn off their cell phone that then ring during a performance. (The New York PHilhatmonic’s music director and conductor Alan Gilbert had to stop a performance of a slow movement of a Mahler symphony –- No. 9, I think it was — because of that kind of interruption.)

Now I myself don’t take unauthorized photos for this blog or authorized videos that I then put on YouTube.

But the issue is certainly close to me and relevant to the current performing arts scene.

But what do you think? The Ear wants to hear.

Did Krystian Zimerman do the right thing and sound an appropriate warning?

Or did he overreact as someone who is used to performing before thousands of audience members and even cameras and microphones? Is he trying to resist an inevitable social and technological change?

Read about it and leave your take in the COMMENT section.

Here are some links to stories about the incident:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-krystian-zimerman-20130604,0,1139427.story

http://www.itechpost.com/articles/10191/20130605/youtube-destroying-music-pianist-krystian-zimerman-storms-out-middle-classical.htm

http://www.contactmusic.com/news/pianist-krystian-zimerman-storms-out-of-concert_3704347

http://www.thecmuwebsite.com/article/leading-classical-pianist-hits-out-at-smartphone-filming-fan/

Krystian Zimerman annoyed 001

Krystian Zimerman is not alone in his point of view. Here is a link to a BBC story about musical artists in all genres protesting YouTube:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22780812

If I recall correctly, it was the 19th-century French novelist Stendhal who remarked that mixing politics in literature is like firing a pistol during a concert — rude but something one ignores at one’s own peril.

Pianist Zimerman has a history of being outspoken about various political and social issues — including the presence of American missiles in his native country — during his performances.

Here is a good background piece from the British newspaper The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2009/apr/28/pianist-krystian-zimerman

And here is a video of a YouTube recording of the piece by 20th century composer Karol Szymanowski — appropriately his Variations of a Polish Folk Theme, Op. 10 — that has sparked some of Zimerman’s outbursts or comments, or at least provided a context for them.


Classical music Q&A: Retiring UW-Madison violin professor Tyrone Greive discusses his long career, his research into Polish music and Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 that he will perform twice this weekend. Plus there is FREE early music, percussion music and clarinet music at the UW this week.

April 29, 2013
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ALERTS: The frenetic pace of semester-ending concerts continues over at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. ITEMS: On tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 30, 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall. the UW Early Music Ensemble, directed by John Chappell Stowe, will perform a FREE concert. Sorry, no word on the program. Then on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Western Percussion Ensemble (below), directed by Tom Ross will perform a FREE concert.  The program will feature David M. Gordon’s “Apocryphal Dances,” which is scored for percussion quartet and prepared piano and includes many unusual sounds including strummed mandolin and autoharp as well as melodica, side whistles, Indonesian gongs and toy piano.  The program will also include Franco Donatoni’s “Mari II” for marimba quartet and works by Michael Udow, Takayoshi Yoshioka and Louis Andriessen. Also on Wednesday, May 1, at 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall, the UW Student Clarinet Ensemble will perform a FREE concert. Performers include Emily Barley, Alex Charland, Danielle Anderson and Michelle Andrews on clarinet. Sorry, again no word on the program.

WesternPercussion Ensemble

By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s Q&A is by a guest blogger Kathy Esposito (below, in a self-portrait), the new concert manager and director of public relations for the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Kathy Esposito

By Kathy Esposito

After 34 years as professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Tyrone Greive is retiring this spring.

But the indefatigable musician, well-known to Madison audiences as the former concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will still teach, perform and indulge his lifelong passion for Polish string literature.

That area of specialty has resulted in numerous discoveries of previously unknown music scores, multiple journal articles, several research grants and awards. In 1997, the Polish Music Center awarded him a research prize for one of his articles.

On Friday, May 3 at 8 p.m., in a farewell concert with the UW Symphony Orchestra in Mills Hall, Greive will perform the Concerto No. 2, Op. 61 by Karol Szymanowski. Also on the program are   Charles Ives’  Symphony No. 2 and “Symphonic Miniatures” by Erno Dohnanyi. (The concert will be repeated on Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m. in a ticketed performance at the River Arts Center in Prairie du Sac. Purchase tickets through the website: www.riverartscenter.org)

Unlike many of the manuscripts he has discovered in Polish libraries over the years, the Szymanowski concerto is famous.

Greive (below, in a recent photo by Kathy Esposito of the UW School of Music) recently reflected on his choice of this concerto for his final performance, and on a few other aspects of his life’s work as well. 

Tyrone Greive 2013 by Kathy Esposito

How does it feel to discover or publicize a composition that no one else had been aware of? That must be an amazing sensation!

You are correct about the sensation, but this happens in varying degrees. Much of Polish violin music is virtually unknown or little known. Other pieces, like Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto, have been known by some of the finest performers and relatively small audiences for a long time. (Below is a photo of Karol Szymanowski.)

It is very satisfying to share this music, particularly with those audiences and players who don’t know it because while its worthiness is already proven but its performance practice is far from fixed. So the opportunity for creativity in this music is multiple: first, the idiom of the music is far from ordinary; and performers can be very creative in how they present it.

karol szymanowski

Is there any end to how much music exists in the violin repertoire?  Are you still unearthing compositions by Polish composers?

The repertoire seems boundless. Even within the Polish violin repertoire, I constantly discover new composers and music. I am also aware of specific Polish violin pieces that have yet to be published or are long out of print.

Given that the violin was the long favored instrument in Polish folk music and that there is a long, very large-scale national tradition centered around the violin in Poland, which was preceded by an extensive bowed folk instrument tradition, this is not surprising.

But, I also enjoy repertoire surprises relating to other countries as well. For example, in 2011 International Music of New York published my performance edition of Edouard Lalo’s hardly known but wonderful Sonata, Op. 12, for violin and piano.

A violinist could live six lifetimes and, yet, not play everything that is worthwhile. Hence, we have to choose. (Below is a photo of Tyrone Greive by Katrin Talbot for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

Tyrone Greive Talbot

Do you have a favorite Polish composer? I have heard pieces by Wieniawski and Lutosławski, and they are quite beautiful.

It is almost impossible to choose one favorite. Just to name a select few besides those whom you mention, I really enjoy the Baroque ensemble music of Adam Jarzębski, Marcin Mielczewski and Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński (particularly his sonata for two violins and continuo), the classical solo and ensemble music by Feliks Janiewicz (especially the second of his five violin concertos), Jan Kleczyński and Franciszek Lessel, the romantic sonatas, miniatures and chamber music of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Juliusz Zarębski and Mieczysław Karłowicz, and the varied 20th century styles represented by Poldowski (Irena Wieniawska/Lady Dean Paul), Artur Malawski, Grażyna Bacewicz (below), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Romuld Twardowski.

The large number of truly effective transcriptions of Frédéric Chopin’s piano music constitutes a special category.

BACEWICZ

What made you decide to perform Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below)? How did you choose that piece? 

This is one of the really major concertos in the Polish violin repertoire. I enjoyed playing it with the UW Symphony Orchestra when I last did it with David Becker and thought that it needed to be heard again. Also, the fact that the university orchestra’s proficiency continues to grow and that this concerto is as much a piece for the orchestra as the soloist makes it a good choice.

I just listened to it in a YouTube video (at the bottom). It is truly a beautiful work. Do you have any personal reflections on the piece?

This is not only the last major work by Szymanowski, but it also represents the culmination of a longtime collaboration between the composer and violinist Paul Kochański (below).

Paralleling the collaborations between Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, Brahms and Joseph Joachim, Stravinsky and Samuel Dushkin, the Szymanowski-Kochański partnership not only resulted in a number of unique violin-piano and violin-orchestra works but also impacted a number of other composers such Ravel, Bartok, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bloch and de Falla. Also, this music reflects a largely unknown history and culture.

Paul Kochanski

What do you plan to do following retirement? Will you continue your research? 

Yes, I have several projects underway, the most important being work on a book manuscript with the working title “Polish Violin Repertoire, in Its Historical and Cultural Context.” While much of the writing and research has already been done, some large segments remain. The ability to focus on it in larger time blocks should help me to complete it.

Next year, on a volunteer basis, I will also work with six of my current students who are to complete their studio degree requirements during that academic year.

Of course, I will continue to play and perform – once a violinist, always a violinist. Music is more than a profession; it is a way of life.

My cellist wife Janet (below, with Tyrone) and I also hope to do some traveling, more reading and getting outside more. I also hope to devote a little more time to my model railroad, which has always been one of my great interests but to which I have been able to devote hardly any time in recent years.

Tyrone and Janet Greive

Do you keep in touch with former students?

I always enjoy hearing from former students and interacting with them. During this school year, I have been hearing from a large number of them from a wide geographic range. I don’t like mentioning specific students because, in doing, I will be leaving out other deserving students. Every student is important.


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