The Well-Tempered Ear

Today is Day 2 of the online Bach Around the Clock festival. It starts at 8 a.m. and features keyboard, wind, string and vocal music. WPR’s Jonathan Overby will discuss Bridges to Bach tonight at 7

March 18, 2021
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is the schedule for Day 2 of the 2021 virtual, online Bach Around the Clock festival, which is today — Thursday, March 18:

Today’s program will be available starting at 8 a.m. and then throughout the festival.

Click here to view more.

For an overview and background, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2021/03/17/todays-just-bach-concert-starts-the-10-day-bach-around-the-clock-festival-that-runs-through-march-26-all-events-are-free-and-online-here-are-the-lineups/

PERFORMERS and PROGRAMS

•  Musette (from Suzuki Book 2); Ossian Rogers, violin; Faolan Rogers, harp; Kara Rogers, piano

•  Sheep May Safely Graze, from Cantata 208; Gift Akere, piano

•  Sonata No. 3, BWV 1005:  Largo; Rebekah May, viola

•  Cello Suite V in C minor, BWV 1011: Prelude,  Gavottes I and II, Gigue; Cindy Cameron-Fix, bassoon

•  Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook: Menuet, BWV anh 114; Tim Farley, clavichord

•  Chorale: Now God be with us; Katie Bultman, soprano, and Kenneth Stancer, organ

Live Evening Keynote  Discussion at 7 p.m. Jonathan Øverby, (below) distinguished Wisconsin Public Radio host of “The Road to Higher Ground,” will discuss building The Bridge To and Through Bach with BATC Artistic Director Marika Fischer Hoyt.

Click here to join the Zoom call, starting at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, March 18. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions in the chat for Overby to address.


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Classical music: A veteran reviewer bids farewell with a rave review of this summer’s last concert by the Willy Street Chamber Players and UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor

July 29, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a very special posting, the final review that will be written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker.

Barker (below), who is dealing with medical issues, is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who wrote for The Capital Times, Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who, until two weeks ago, hosted an early music show once a month on a Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gave pre-concert lectures in Madison.

Please use the comment section to join The Ear in thanking Barker for his many years of public service and wishing him well.

By John W. Barker

I had to miss the first concert this summer by the Willy Street Chamber Players (below) on July 12; and the next one, on July 19, was cancelled because of power failures. But the final one, last Friday night, was well worth waiting for — one of the really memorable events of the year, I think.

The program, performed at the usual near East Side venue of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1021 Spaight Street, began with some short items.

First, there was a set of Three Nocturnes (1924) for piano trio — violin, cello and piano — by Ernest Bloch. They contain elements of the Hebraic sound that Bloch cultivated but also had their own individualities, the first two contemplative and the third marked “tempestuoso.” Interesting was Bloch’s alternating uses of muting the strings.

After this came an example of the short pieces for string quartet by the contemporary composer Jessie Montgomery, her “Voodoo Dolls” (2008). Much is packed into this five-minute piece. A few lyrical touches aside, it sounded like a hoedown gone crazy, full of quite novel sounds, including rhythmic thumping on the wood of the instruments.

All that was a curtain-raiser to the big event of the program: the Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81, by Antonin Dvorak. This 40-minute work is one of the composer’s best-known chamber music compositions, and one of the standouts in the whole chamber music literature.

The very opening notes of the first movement bring a flood of warm well-being.  (After hearing just that, I commented, “I haven’t felt such happiness in months.”)

The fecundity and richness of invention pervaded the entire work. For me, its high point is the second movement, in which Dvorak (below) used the Czech formula of the dumka, a kind of folk music lament that is paced slow-fast-slow-fast. (You can hear the Dumka movement, played by the Jerusalem Quartet and pianist Stefan Vladar, in the YouTube video below.)

Dvorak liked to play viola in chamber music, and so he always wrote some good things for himself. The sublime passages for viola in this movement were played with such transcendent beauty by Rachael Hauser (below) – who is leaving Madison for New York City — that I felt I was hearing the composer’s voice directly. Put simply, this was one of the greatest examples of chamber-music performance that I have ever heard.

All of the players, many of whom play in the Madison Symphony Orchestra,  of course matched remarkable skill with humane vitality and vibrancy.

And a measure of the Willys’ standards was the fact that they were able to draw as a partner no less than that magnificent UW-Madison music school pianist, Christopher Taylor (below), who also performed the same Dvorak Piano Quintet in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he won a bronze medal. Much of his excellence here was demonstrated by the fact that he did not play the star, but joined with the Willys in perfect collegial integration.

This ends the Willy Street group’s fifth summer season. As a symbol of vibrancy and fresh spirit, they are among the most important of Madison’s classical music world today. They have drawn steadily growing audiences, and the house was truly packed for this concert.  We can only hope that they will continue to brighten that world in the years ahead.

I am now ending my time as a music critic. I can think of no more satisfying a final review to write than of the Willy Street Chamber Players.


Posted in Classical music
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