By Jacob Stockinger
The time for announcing new seasons has arrived.
Pretty soon, over the next several weeks and months, The Ear will hear from larger and smaller presenters and ensembles in the Madison area, and post their new seasons.
First out of the gate is the critically acclaimed and popular summer group, the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. (You can see a short promo video about BDDS on the YouTube video at the bottom.)
It has just announced its upcoming summer season this June, and sent out brochures with the season’s details.
This will be the 26th annual summer season and it has the theme of “Alphabet Soup.”
The concept is explained online and in a brochure newsletter (also online) in an editorial essay by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt (seen below with co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes).
In many ways it will be a typical season of the eclectic group. It will feature local and imported artists. Many of both are favorites of The Ear.
His local favorites include UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor; violist Sally Chisholm of the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet; UW violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino (below top, in a photo by Caroline Bittencourt); and Pro Arte cellist Parry Karp (below bottom).
Among The Ear’s favorite guest artists are violinist Carmit Zori, clarinetist Alan Kay, the San Francisco Piano Trio (below top); UW alumna soprano Emily Birsan; pianist Randall Hodgkinson; and baritone Timothy Jones (below bottom).
As usual, the season features 12 concerts of six programs over three weeks (June 9-25) in three venues – the Playhouse in the Overture Center (below top), the Hillside Theater (below middle) at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green and the Stoughton Opera House (below bottom).
In addition, there is a FREE family concert in the Overture Playhouse on June 10.
What does seem somewhat new is the number of unknown composers and an edgier, more adventurous choice of pieces, including more new music and more neglected composers.
Oh, there will be classics by such composers as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Boccherini, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Bela Bartok, Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and others. These are the ABC’s of the alphabet soup, according to BDDS.
But also represented are composers such as Philippe Gaubert, Czech Holocaust victim Gideon Klein (below), Guillaume Conneson, Carl Czerny, Paul Moravec and Franz Doppler. These are the XYZ’s of the alphabet soup.
In between come others. Contemporary American composer, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Puts (below) is a BDDS favorite and is well represented. You will also find less performed works by Ned Rorem, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gerald Finzi.
For the complete programs and schedules as well as the list of performers, some YouTube videos and ticket prices, both for season tickets ($109.50, $146, $182 and $219) and for individual concerts ($43), and other information, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
It has been a good summer for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
Make that a GREAT summer.
It was all to mark its 23rd annual season, and mark it they did, in high style.
Thanks to BDDS, I wandered far and wide without ever leaving my seat. Here is what I did last Friday and Saturday:
I went to the movies.
And I found out that after almost a century, silent movies still work their magic. In the 1916 film “The Count” actor-director Charlie Chaplin is still brilliantly funny, and provokes loud laughs and astonished admiration for his physical pratfalls, his absurd no-win situations, his precise direction, his perfect timing, his stunts and his facial expressions.
Plus, it all happened during the duo-piano score of “Le boeuf sur le toit” (The Ox on the Roof) by Darius Milhaud and played with perfect timing and image-synching by Randall Hodgkinson and Jeffrey Sykes, who played complete with popcorn and a soda.
The Ear says “Do It Again” next summer and in the future. The mixed media event was terrific and informative entertainment.
What movies I didn’t see, I heard.
Take American composer William Hirtz’s Variations for Piano-Four Hands on Themes from “The Wizard of Oz.” From the title, it sounds goofy and too pop-like. It even seems a reach to call it classical music. But it proved an undeniably and impressively virtuosic piece for the duo-pianists Randall Hodgkinson and Jeffrey Sykes.
Fun was added by the appearance of Dorothy (BDDS executive director Samantha Crownover, below top) in her ruby slippers and one of the guards of the Wicked Witch of the West. How BDDS!
I went once again to South America, the geographical center of this BDDS season.
What took me there was the music, this time the Poem for Flute and Piano by an Argentinian named Angel Lasala (below). Never heard of him. Too bad for me. But NOW I have and am glad.
I also went there specifically through the flute, which, along with the guitar, seems the instrument of choice for the southern continent. (Remember the haunting use of the flute in “El Condor Pasa” – which would have made a great solo flute encore — and other Andean folk songs.) And it was played with such complete mastery by BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt (below) that she made a wind instrument sound percussive as well as lyrical.
I went to The Land Where Unknown Music Goes.
That is how I heard a great but neglected Trio for flute, violin and piano by Italian composer Nino Rota, more famous for his scores for movies by Federico Fellini than for his own chamber music, which is quite good. (Hollywood movie scores are getting more and more validity in the concert hall. Next season the Madison Symphony Orchestra will do a program with a lot of them written by exiles from Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.)
It is also how I heard neglected French composer Philippe Gaubert (below) through his rarely performed “Three Watercolors” for flute, cello and piano in which Jutt’s flute tone perfectly matched the idea of watercolor transparency and watercolor sensuality.
Even such a mainstream and popular composer as Maurice Ravel became more exotic, exciting and engaging with his Sonata for Cello and Violin with violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau (both below) of the San Francisco Trio. It is fiercely difficult and thorny to play. Ravel worked on it for two years. The Ear thinks it is Ravel’s most modern and serious work, his most unusual sounding composition. So I have to listen to it again. It’s good to rediscover something old in a new way.
But I also went to the Land of Great and Unforgettable Music.
It also always good to hear familiar music and genuine masterpieces played superbly. And that is exactly what I heard in Anton Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F Minor, Op. 65, which too often takes a back seat to the more famous “Dumky” Trio.
And I don’t think I will ever hear a better performance — despite a snapped cello string that had to be replaced mid-performance — of Dmitri Shostakovich’s dark Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67. It was forceful, whether biting or elegiac, and so impressed the animated audience that it — and not the more timid Gaubert — should have been the concluding work on the “Cut and Run” program. (You can hear the captivating Finale in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
We are one lucky city to hear the San Francisco Trio (below) in these works. The Ear, for one, can’t get enough of the threesome.
I don’t know what else to say except that even with the main concert season over, The Ear doesn’t think he will be making a lot of vacation plans in the future if they overlap with performances by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
And he suggests that you do the same.
By Jacob Stockinger
This summer, The Ear has yet to see a missed opportunity or hear a false note from the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which seems headed for a perfect season.
I find that each of the two weekend programs that the BDDS offers in three venues for three weekends each summer usually rewards me with a generous share of pleasure plus important lessons and pleasant surprises. Little wonder, then, that the BDDS has had its best second weekend ever last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to BDDS executive director Samantha Crownover.
Last weekend certainly did offer much pleasure, plus many lessons and surprises, with the “Take a Hike” and “Hasta la Vista, Baby” programs. And there is no reason to think that this coming weekend’s two programs — “Cut and Run” and “Hightail It” — won’t do the same.
So here are some quick looks backward that are likely to serve as good looks forward.
Here is a link for more information about performers, date and times, programs and tickets:
An avid amateur pianist myself, I get to hear terrific pianists whom I can emulate and who inspire me to practice and play better.
Almost every concert features BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Jeffrey Sykes, who teaches at University of California-Berkeley and California State University-East Bay. Sykes never disappoints. He is a master of different styles, color and dynamics — in short, an ideal collaborator.
And last weekend, this Pianist for All Seasons demonstrated yet another skill with his improvised embellishments and ornamentation on themes and passage work in a well-known Mozart piano concerto (Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488).
This weekend Sykes will play by himself in piano trios by Dmitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvorak with the San Francisco Piano Trio of which he is a member. He will also perform duets and trios with his BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director flutist Stephanie Jutt. Particularly noteworthy is that this weekend, Sykes will again be joined by fellow pianist Randall Hodgkinson (below) in works for one piano, four hands, one by Darius Milhaud with a Charlie Chaplin movie to accompany it. Hodgkinson teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music and Wellesley College, and he is really good.
Still, the real piano treat last weekend was tango pianist – and also music arranger -– Pablo Zinger (below), a native Uruguayan who now lives in New York City. Zinger once arranged music for and performed the works of Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla. And it was in two evenings of Piazzolla’s tangos that Zinger displayed his amazing skills.
I watched how carefully he pedaled, never overdoing it. I listened to how well he balanced volume with other instruments. I heard his unfailing ability to execute complex rhythms and to quickly but naturally change tempi. I listened to what seemed an undeniably classical keyboard technique that allowed him to play multiple voices independently, as in a Bach fugue. Articulate and laconic, Pablo Zinger (below top, he is talking; below bottom, he is playing) proved nothing short of a master instrumentalist, not just some generic dance-band pianist. I don’t think I will ever forget his rendition with BDDS of Astor Piazzolla’s heartbreakingly beautiful “Oblivion,” which you can hear in a comparable chamber music arrangement in a YouTube video at the bottom.
I get to hear first-rate, terrific artists from out-of town.
Some of the performers who were familiar from past BDDS seasons included husband-and-wife cellists Anthony Ross and Beth Rapier, who both play with the Minnesota Orchestra. They are terrific separately and together, as when they played the only Concerto for Two Cellos composed by Antonio Vivaldi (below) whose appealing works we hear played live too infrequently.
Violinist Carmit Zori, who is the founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn (NY) Chamber Music Society, never fails to impress me with her sound and her expressiveness. This was especially true is the Romance, Op. 23, for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach, which I had never heard before. (You can hear it below in a YouTube video of Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who also discusses the American violinist Maud Powell to whom the Romance was dedicated and who gave the world premiere of the work. Barton Pine will perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra next season.)
The Beach Romance also reminded me of what a great strategy it is to open a concert with a slow piece to help get the audience into The Zone. In a way, it seems like back to the future, back to Baroque-era sonatas that went Slow-Fast-Slow-Fast rather than the Classical-era style of Fast-Slow-Fast in their sequence of movements. More concert programs should do the same.
Clarinetist Alan Kay, who performs in New York City and who teaches at both the Mannes School of Music and the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, proved simply sublime in the great “autumnal” Clarinet Trio by Johannes Brahms as well as other pieces. What tone, color and control the man has. He made klezmer-like passages both howl with laughter and lament with moans.
I get to hear unknown or neglected repertoire, both old and new.
Last weekend, as I said earlier, one gem was the Romance for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach; another was the chamber music arrangement by Johann Nepomuk Hummel of a Mozart piano concerto. I also liked a pampas- or gaucho-inspired work by Alberto Ginastera for cello and piano. Contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov’s string quartet and clarinet called “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind” (1994) was breathtaking.
This weekend I will get to hear music by composers I have never even heard of: Philippe Gaubert (below top), who, I suspect, sounds a bit like Gabriel Faure, and will feature virtuoso flutist Stephanie Jutt, BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director ; plus another Argentinean composer Angel Lasala (below bottom) and William Hirtz (below bottom right with pianist Jon-Kimura Parker on the left), who are also complete unknowns to me. That adds excitement.
I learned that the importance of dance forms in music survives.
In Baroque suites like the French and English Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach, the Concerti Grossi of George Frideric Handel and of various Italian composers, you find the allemande, gigue, minuet and sarabande among other dance forms.
In the Romantic era, it was the waltz, the polonaise, the mazurka, the polka and the Slavonic Dances of Antonin Dvorak and Hungarian Dances of Brahms.
Right into that tradition fits the Tango or, more precisely, the “new tango” or “nuevo tango.”
I could go on, but, you get the idea.
I find the Bach Dancing and Dynamite programs extremely well planned and then extremely well executed. And I am not alone, as repeated standing ovations demonstrate (below left at the Stoughton Opera House, below right at The Playhouse in the Overture Center).
To miss music and performances as fine as these is to cheat yourself.
And that just doesn’t make sense, does it?
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear thinks of it as the Berlitz Method of learning a language, only applied to music.
It’s called “Total Immersion.”
Each June, the Madison-based chamber music ensemble the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society always offers a lot of variety of outstanding music over three weekends, each featuring two different programs in three different venues. (This year’s theme, for the 23rd annual season is “23 Skiddoo.”)
But one thing I especially look forward to is that usually there is a chance to immerse yourself in a special style or genre or sub-category that you often don’t hear. That allows for added enjoyment and informative comparisons.
This summer’s immersion started this past opening weekend. This coming weekend and the weekend after that promise an immersion in Western European classics, especially concertos, and in Latin American music, especially Argentinian tangos.
For more details and information, including programs and tickets, visit:
Some of that kind of immersion stems from the BDDS programming philosophy. Some of it probably also comes from the fact that BDDS hires guest artists for a weeklong stint and so must seek out repertoire to spotlight them.
In any case, this is the summer not only of Latin American music but also of two-piano works.
This is not to say I didn’t love the outstanding performance of Claude Debussy’s sublime Violin Sonata, his last work, by New York violinist Yura Lee (below) because I did.
And I also liked the BDDS debut of Icelandic soprano Disilla Larusdottir (below) in her superb readings of “Five Popular Greek Melodies” by Maurice Ravel and especially contemporary American composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Renaissance-based “L’arte della danssar” (“The Art of the Dance,” 2011).
I also thoroughly enjoyed the vivacious and captivating Introduction and Allegro for Flute and Piano by Carlos Guastavino with BDDS co-founder and co-artistic director Stephanie Jutt (below), who is also principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
Personally, The Ear is generally less enthusiastic about harp music, so the Celtic-themed sonata by Arnold Bax left him feeling half-hungry, despite a terrific performance (below) by Stephanie Jutt and the gifted guest harpist Heidi Krutzen. Even the Quartet by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach struck me as not especially inspired, but rather a pretty run-of-the-mill Classical work that, despite a fine performance, has charms but not genius.
To The Ear, the true stand-outs stand-outs of the first weekend were Jeffrey Sykes, the pianist who co-founded and co-directs the BDDS with Jutt and who teaches at the University of California-Berkley; and guest piano virtuoso and Van Cliburn Competition prizewinner Christopher Taylor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, who has a national and international reputation.
And The Ear, himself a devoted amateur pianist, sure got an earful of great, first-class piano playing through four very difficult works for two pianos.
Such concerts are not easy to stage. To get two pianos on stage at The Playhouse in the Overture Center and the Hillside Theater famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green involves a lot of difficult and expensive logistics.
But it was done, and the results were terrific.
Critic John W. Barker thought so too. Here is a link to his review for Isthmus:
As almost always happens with BDDS, there were pleasant surprises.
I really didn’t think I would love Maurice Ravel’s popular and over-programmed “Bolero.”
But I did.
Jeffrey Sykes was completely right when he said that the two-piano version is drier and more modernistic, more like the work of Igor Stravinsky, than the better-known orchestral version, which has its more old-fashioned charms and colors as the melody bounces less percussively around various sections. (You can see for yourself in a YouTube video at the bottom. Let me know if you agree or disagree.)
On the other hand, it was something to see the insistent rhythms make the always physical and impressively dynamic Christopher Taylor (below) rock out and to watch how a single repetitive note gradually worked up to five-finger chords.
There was 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s biting and percussive Variations on the famous theme by Niccolo Paganini that was also used by Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
There was Ravel’s “La Valse,” a grandly elegant and overblown nostalgia trip to the society embodied by the waltz as it came to its chaotic end in World War I.
And in the end there were Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, his last composition that is filled with luscious melodies, infectious rhythms, unusual harmonies and astonishingly virtuosic and precise playing. (The two-piano version was premiered by Rachmaninoff himself and Vladimir Horowitz. Now THAT would have been something to hear and see!)
Now the two-piano part of the BDDS season is over. But The Ear can’t wait for this coming weekend, which will bring a Concerto for Two Cellos by Antonio Vivaldi as well as the lovely Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart plus the great Clarinet Trio by Johannes Brahms and selected tangos by Astor Piazzolla with tango pianist Pablo Zinger (below), who performed with Piazzolla’s band, from Argentina.
During the week there will be piano trios by Dmitri Shostakovich and Antonin Dvorak and performed by the exceptional San Francisco Trio; more tangos by Piazzolla; and works for one piano-four hands by Darius Milhaud and William Hirtz with Sykes and frequent guest pianist Randall Hodgkinson, who teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music.
The Ear intends not to miss any of the four programs in the two coming weekends. And neither should you.
They mean more immersion, even if it is not quite as total.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at the Madison-based fun-filled and pun-filled Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society –- which The Ear named as Musician of the Year –- has announced its 23rd annual summer concert series, called “23 Skiddoo.”
The eclectic and unorthodox chamber music series, which will emphasize Latin American music, will take place this summer, from June 13 to June 29, 2014. It will be held over three weekends in three different venues and with 12 concerts offering six different programs. (Below is the official poster logo for 23 SKIDOO.)
Here is the official press release:
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society (BDDS) presents its 23rd annual summer chamber music festival, “23 SKIDDOO,” from June 13 to June 29, 2014.
This festival features 12 concerts over three weekends, each weekend offers two different programs.
Concerts will be performed in The Playhouse at the Overture Center in Madison (below top); the renovated historic Stoughton Opera House (below middle); and the Hillside Theater at architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green (below bottom).
Combining the best local musicians and top-notch artists from around the country, a varied repertoire and delightful surprises, BDDS presents chamber music as “serious fun” infused with high energy and lots of audience appeal, and makes this art form accessible to diverse audiences.
Led by artistic directors and performers Stephanie Jutt, flute, and Jeffrey Sykes, piano, (below in a photo by C Photography) 15 guest artists will perform in the festival.
“23 Skiddoo” is early 20th century American slang that refers to leaving quickly or taking advantage of an opportunity to leave. Jutt and Sykes have taken some great colloquial expressions and found musical connections for them: sometimes obvious, sometimes oblique — but always leading to thrilling music.
Highlights for this season include Latin American music — especially from Argentina — two pianos on stage in one weekend, a Midwest premiere by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Aaron Jay Kernis, and a silent film score including a screening of the film, below, by and with Charlie Chaplin.
We have two spectacular programs our first week, “Getta Move On” and “Exit Strategy.”
“Exit Strategy” features music written at the end of composers’ careers. It includes Claude Debussy‘s profound Sonata for Violin, the last work he wrote; Maurice Ravel’s popular “Bolero” in its original two-piano incarnation, almost his last work; Arnold Bax’s beautiful sonata for flute and harp; and the scintillating “Paganini” Variations of Witold Lutoslawski for two pianos.
“Getta Move On” features music inspired by dance, including Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s thrilling “Symphonic Dances” for two pianos, Ravel’s nostalgic “La valse” for two pianos, and the Midwest premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’ evocative work “The Art of the Dance” for soprano, flute, harp, viola and percussion.
Madison’s piano star Christopher Taylor (below top) will pair up with BDDS artistic director Jeffrey Sykes on the two-piano works. The programs will also showcase the talents of Canadian harp virtuoso Heidi Krutzen and Pro Musicis award winner Yura Lee (below bottom) on violin and viola.
Icelandic soprano Dìsella Làrusdóttir, hailed by Opera News as “a voice of bewitching beauty and presence,” will join in the premiere of the work by Aaron Jay Kernis (below) and other works.
Concerts will be performed at The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts on Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. and Spring Green at the Hillside Theater on Sunday, June 15, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The second week features “Take a Hike” and “Hasta La Vista, Baby.”
“Take a Hike” includes music inspired by the countryside, from an Amy Beach “Romance,” to Johannes Brahms’ gorgeous Clarinet Trio and Mozart’s pastoral Piano Concerto No. 23, which celebrates the Austrian countryside, to works by Argentinian composer Carlos Guastavino (below).
“Hasta La Vista, Baby” is an extravaganza of Latin American chamber music from the sultry, sensuous, heart-on-the-sleeve tangos of Astor Piazzolla (below) to the mystic profundity of Osvaldo Golijov‘s “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.”
We are thrilled to have clarinetist Alan Kay, principal of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, joining BDDS for the first time.
He will be joined by audience favorites Carmit Zori and Suzanne Beia, violins; David Harding, viola; and Tony Ross and Beth Rapier, cellos.
Finally, we have invited master pianist and arranger Pablo Zinger (below), one of Piazzolla’s champions who played with Piazzolla own’s quintet and is an international authority on Latin music, to give our programs authentic Latin flair. (You can hear Pablo Zinger playing with the composer in a popular YouTube video with over 1 million hits at the bottom in the beautiful bittersweet song “Adios, Nonino” that Piazzolla wrote when his father died. Zinger opens with a long and impressive solo piano riff and at about 1:48 minutes finally breaks into the heartbreaking melody.)
Concerts will be performed at the Stoughton Opera House on Friday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.; at the The Playhouse in the Overture Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, on Sunday, June 22, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The final week includes “Cut and Run” and “Hightail It.”
“Cut and Run” features music by composers who made well-timed exits or transitions in their lives. Bohuslav Martinu escaped Europe just before the outbreak of World War II; when he arrived in the US, he wrote his jazzy Trio for flute, cello and piano. In Russia, Dmitri Shostakovich (below) responded to the war by writing his very moving piano trio. In this work, he got himself back into the good graces of the Soviet authorities—and yet still managed to sneak into his work an ironic critique of Soviet life.
Darius Milhaud’s great work for piano four hands, “Le boeuf sur le toit,” was originally intended as the score for Charlie Chaplin’s silent movie “The Count,” a movie (below) that culminates in a hilariously well-timed exit. Our program will reunite the movie with its erstwhile score.
“Hightail It” includes music with fast codas. “Coda” is the Italian word for “tail,” and it refers to the final section of a movement or a piece. This program includes William Hirtz’s fun, over-the-top “Fantasy on the Wizard of Oz” for piano four-hands, and the jazzy, rhythmic Sonata, for violin and cello, of Maurice Ravel. The thrilling, symphonic Piano Trio in F minor of Antonín Dvořák brings the season to a close.
The San Francisco Piano Trio (below) — violinist Axel Strauss, cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau and BDDS artistic director pianist Jeffrey Sykes — will be joined by Boston Symphony pianist Randall Hodgkinson and BDDS Artistic Director flutist Stephanie Jutt in these programs.
Concerts will be performed at The Playhouse of the Overture Center for the Arts on Friday, June 27, 7:30 p.m.; at the Stoughton Opera House on Saturday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m.; and in Spring Green at the Hillside Theater, Sunday, on June 29, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
FREE FAMILY CONCERT
For the fourth year, BDDS will also perform one FREE family concert, “Getta Move On Kids,” an interactive event that will be great for all ages. Together with the audience, BDDS will explore why dance-like melodies and rhythms can get people on their feet; they’ll listen to and repeat rhythms and move to the music.
This will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, in The Playhouse at the Overture Center. This is a performance for families with children ages 6 and up and seating will be first come first served. CUNA Mutual Group, and Overture Center generously underwrite this performance.
University of Wisconsin-Madison artist Carolyn Kallenborn (below top with a set from 2011 below bottom), who works in textiles artist, will create a stage setting for each concert in The Playhouse. All concerts at The Playhouse, the Opera House and Hillside Theater will be followed by a meet-the-artist opportunity.
The addresses of location and venues are: Stoughton Opera House, 381 East Main Street in Stoughton; the Overture Center in Madison at 201 State Street; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Hillside Theater on County Highway 23 in Spring Green.
Single general admission tickets are $39. Student tickets are only $5. Various ticket packages are also available starting at a series of three for $111. First-time subscriptions are 50 percent off.
For tickets and information, call (608) 255-9866 or visit: www.bachdancinganddynamite.org
Single tickets for Overture Center concerts can also be purchased at the Overture Center for the Arts box office, (608) 258-4141, or at overturecenter.com (additional fees apply). Hillside Theater tickets may be purchased from the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center on County Highway C, (608) 588-7900. Tickets are available at the door at all locations.
A REMINDER: Tonight (July 3) at 7 p.m. in Olbrich Gardens, on Madison’s far east side, the Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, will perform a free concert. (A $1 donation is suggested to benefit the gardens.) The concert is a preview of the group’s concert tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest July 7-17.
By Jacob Stockinger
Every fall, concert-goers look forward to the opening of The New Season by such big-name local classical music groups as the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the University of Wisconsin School of Music – to name just a few of the most prominent.
Over many years, those seasons have become recognizable landmarks in our cultural landscape.
But more than ever, The Ear is convinced that that same kind of reception, that same excitement and anticipation, should await the annual three-week summer season of Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below, pianist Jeffrey Sykes, violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor ).
With no more than six or eight players on the stage at any one time, BDDS is a small group that makes big and beautiful music.
Between June 15 and July 1, BDDS played six programs in four different venues, and once again proved remarkable for the quality of its programs, performers, performances, venues and audiences.
Everything it did showed that BDDS is indeed Big League, despite being a modestly sized chamber music ensemble and despite performing after the close of the main concert season and the arrival of The Heat of Summer.
So after thinking about the four programs I heard in the past three weeks, let me offer seven reasons why BDDS deserves gets my respect and support, and deserves yours. (You can help by attending, but also by going to the donation site www.power2give.org and to BDDS’ home page: www.bachdancinganddynamite.org)
1. BDDS takes chances and risks, and so succeeds in allowing listeners to have fun with serious music. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
BDDS advertises itself as offering “Chamber Music with a Bang.” And they mean it.
Sometimes they do it through sheer affability and cordiality. Sometimes they do it through the doors prizes, which this season ran from a gift card for cocktails to homemade pies. Sometimes they use an unusual Mystery Guest like the Yiddish singer Henry Saposnik or the Madison Hoop Team or a black leather jacket cello duo (below) furiously playing a Michael Jackson song.
But even the music they play takes chances. BDDS did its own arrangement (below) of Stravinsky’s popular and jauntily tuneful neo-Classical “Suite Italienne” or “Pucinella Suite,” which is normally heard in a violin and piano arrangement. They used eight players and turned it into a kind of modern-day Brandenburg Concerto, a Baroque concerto grosso in which each “section” or individual got a chance to show off – including twirling two cellos and mixing the modern grand piano and the harpsichord in the same program. Guess what? It all worked superbly. And it is completely within the aesthetic that Stravinsky was shooting for. Igor would be pleased.
2. BDDS gets you to hear music you otherwise wouldn’t hear.
There were many examples this season. Some of my favorites are the orchestral miniatures. They included Salomon’s chamber arrangements of Haydn’s late symphonies, of which they have done three out of 12. (This year’s offering, below, was Symphony No. 85, “La Reine.”) Then there was the Hummel’s similar arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor. And when was the last time you heard a complete Couperin Suite?
3. BDDS plays masterpieces masterfully. All the untraditional shtick and stuff could serve to compensate for other shortcomings. But that is decidedly NOT the case with the BDDS. If you heard the BDDS perform Schubert’s sublime Cello Quintet or Brahms’ driving Piano Quintet in F Minor (below), you heard fiery and committed as well as subtle performances that rival or surpass any performances you will hear live and even recorded.
BDDS doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks or make any excuses. Just because it chooses to stray from the beaten path doesn’t mean it isn’t a first-rate guide to take you down that beaten path and let you see – and hear – new things about old and familiar music.
4. BDDS takes the music – NOT themselves – seriously and teaches the audience new things.
We went to hear the rarely performed “The Apotheosis of Lully” by Couperin, and ended up getting a mini-lesson in the French Baroque style versus the Italian Baroque style. And pianist Jeffrey Sykes hammed it up just right as the pseudo-pious narrator (below left). The audience listened, laughed and learned.
5. BDDS gets away from the celebrity culture of the contemporary classical music scene and brings us great artists from outside whose names are unknown.
Sure, you can pay $100 or more to hear superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman or cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But I’ll take BDDS. I don’t think any local group does a better job of finding and presenting low-profile but absolutely first-rate musicians than BDDS.
Here are some examples: Harpsichordist Layton James (below) was the principal harpsichordist of the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for an astonishing 41 years (1969-2010). Animated violinist Carmit Zori founded and directs the Brooklyn, New York Chamber Music Society. San Francisco-based violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Jean-Michel Fonteneau joined pianist Jeffrey Sykes in piano trios performances that are consistently outstanding. Percussionists Dane Richeson (from Lawrence University in Appleton) is as interesting and accomplished to me as the world-famous Evelyn Glennie. And you won’t find a better piano partner than Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of music.
And this year The Ear finally got his wish: To hear BDDS co-founder and co-director pianist Jeffrey Sykes (below) perform a solo work, Haydn’s Piano Sonata No. 49. There is no better ensemble pianist than Sykes, but I hope we get to hear him in some solos again in future seasons.
6. BDDS is refreshingly unapologetic and candid in its down-to-earth approach. Because they have fun, we feel we can have fun.
Co-founder and co-director flutist Stephanie Jutt publicly admitted one night that she herself gets bored when she goes to concerts and all there is to watch are the musicians. Wow! She is just like a lot us!
So BDDS commissions on-stage installations and backgrounds to maintain audience interest. They get local artists from the UW-Madison — Carolyn Kallenborn, Teresa Getty and Michael Villequette – to design and construct wondrously beautiful and inexpensive sets of that can be subtlety changed with lights, with little trinkets like plastic glasses and cut-outs, and with pieces of abstract dyed fabric to match different concerts, different moods and different works. The effect is original, welcoming and civilized.
7. BDDS is militantly eclectic and likes to mix it up. You won’t find purism or snobbery here!
Consider just the range of repertoire: from the 18th century, they played works by Couperin, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; from the 19th century, works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Tchaikovsky; from the 20th century, works by Bartok, Barber, Bernstein, Rorem, Jolivet and Stravinsky; and from the 21st century, a piece by Kenji Bunch.
Put it all together and you realize that, as I said in another recent post, when you go to one BDDS concert, you always end up wanting to hear others.
I can’t wait for next June and BDDS’ 22nd season next summer.
And neither should you.
Do you have COMMENTS to leave about any BDDS programs you heard this season?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
It’s closing time!
At least it is for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and for its many fans and friends who this weekend will see the summer chamber music ensemble bring the curtain down on its 21st season.
The playful Mixology theme will take the group to the restored Stoughton Opera House (below) – where it will be taped by Wisconsin Public Television on Friday night; The Playhouse in the Overture Center on Saturday night, and the Hillside Theatre at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin compound in Spring Green on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. (Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the BDDS will also perform in Thresher Hall at the Green Lake Music Festival in Rip0n.)
Most appealing of all is the repertoire. The two programs offer wonderful contrasts. The “Kir Royale” program (champagne with a touch of black currant liqueur) features “noble” and “aristocratic” works: a Baroque dance suite by Couperin; a chamber version of Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” (The Queen, written for Marie-Antoinette, below); and Schubert’s sublime and other-worldly Cello Quintet, perhaps the greatest single piece of chamber music ever composed.
The second program features the “Old Fashioned,” that is – composers who were thought staid or backward looking in their day but are now seen as forward-looking and original. Those works include Igor Stravsinky’s 20th-century Neo-Classical dance suite “Suite Italienne”; Francois Couperin’s “The Apotheosis of Lully” written in 1725; and the titan of Romantic traditionalism by the successor of Bach and Beethoven, Brahms (below) as expressed through his masterpiece the Piano Quintet in F minor.
Add in the guest artists, including harpsichordist Layton James (below), Minnesota Orchestra cellist Anthony Ross and New York violinist Carmit Zori, and The Ear thinks unforgettable treats are waiting.
These are all wonderful works, sure to be given energetic performances and not to be missed.
Of course the whole BDDS season, done in six program and three venues over three weeks, have been that way.
Last weekend, for example, was the nearly sold-out “Manhattan” program, which served up delicious Big Apple concoctions by Leonard Bernstein (“Symphonic Dances from West Side Story” arranged for two pianos and percussion); Ned Rorem (his Flute Trio); Samuel Barber (his gorgeous neo-Romantic Cello Sonata, below); and Astor Piazzolla (three tangos), who learned much of about jazz from his time in Manhattan clubs before returning to his native Argentina.
The superlative guest artists included two percussionists (Lawrence University’s Dane Richeson and UW-Madison’s Tony Di Sanza, both unfortunately concealed from much of the Playhouse audience by the piano lids) plus a local cellist (UW’s Parry Karp) and a guest pianist (Randall Hodgkinson from the New England Conservatory of Music) joined BDDS’s co-founders and co-directors flutist Stephanie Jutt and pianist Jeffrey Sykes. And the hilarious Mystery Guests were two comical bartenders – one for torso and head, the other for hands – who concocted an actual Manhattan (below) to loud applause and riotous laughter.
I am not alone in my praise for it. Here is a link to Greg Hettmansberger’s review of the “Manhattan” program for Madison Magazine and his blog Classical Speaking;
I suppose I should wait until after the coming weekend before speculating about the next season. But you can’t help but wonder: What will be the theme for BDDS’ 22nd season – maybe duets and quartets, maybe animals (as in Noah’s Ark and two-by-twos).
Whatever it is, you have to believe it will be yet another remarkable summer season.
For more information about this weekend, including program notes, ticket prices and reservations, and player biographies, visit:
In the meantime:
Bottoms up and cheers!
To your health, BDDS!
A Toast and a Thank You!
You make it an intoxicating summer, no matter what theme and music you choose.
Three Alerts: Just a reminder that three FREE classical music events will take place this Saturday in Madison.
From 10.a.m. to 3 p.m., the Henry Vilas Zoo will host the annual event for children and young people by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO). Events includes performances, an instrument petting zoo and ice cream. Here is a link: http://www.wpr.org/regions/msn/
At 11 a.m., the Madison Symphony Orchestra will again start its FREE summer organ concerts in Overture Hall. For details visit:
At 8:30 p.m. in Mills Hall is a FREE concert with music by Bach, Villa-Lobos and others by the Cello Choir from the biennial summer cello institute being held at the UW-Madison through Saturday. Here is a link to details and the program:
By Jacob Stockinger
Though its members and guests artists have long played with the maturity, sensitivity and spontaneity of adults, this weekend – with concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday — Madison’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society really grows up and comes of age.
That is because the chamber music ensemble turns 21 years old.
Boy, those years went fast! Just ask co-founders flutist Stephanie Jutt and pianist Jeffrey Sykes (bel0w).
So what is an appropriate theme for this group that likes fun and puns?
MIXOLOGY, of course — that is, the art of mixed drinks. BDDS is legal now – though when it comes to classical music, they have long been intoxicated and intoxicating. So programs have been given names like “White Russian,” “B&B,” “Manhattan,” “Old-Fashioned” and “Kir Royale.” All to serve “Bartender Bach,” as you can see on the home page of BDDS, which is given below.
FOR A TEASER PREVIEW, BE SURE TO LISTEN TO THE RADIO TODAY:
Tune into WORT (89.9 FM) this morning 5 – 8 a.m., to hear an interview with Stephanie Jutt during the classical music show.
Then, listen to WERN (88.7 FM) today at noon, to hear Norman Gilliland host BDDS live.
The overall theme of this new summer season may have changed. But from what The Ear sees on the schedule of composers, works and performers, between this weekend and July 1 BDDS will offer the same first-rate chamber music — WITH A BANG, as BDDS says about its penchant for surprises and informal fun — that its loyal fans have become accustomed to over two decades.
As in recent years, BDDS will be performing in three venues, plus at the Green Lake Festival; The Playhouse in the Overture Center; the Hillside Theatre (below) at Taliesin in Spring Green; and at the charmingly and handsomely restored Stoughton Opera House. All draw big crowds and enthusiastic audiences.
Of course co-founders and co-directors pianist Jeffrey Sykes and flutist Stephanie Jutt will be playing. For my piece on the talented Sykes, a pianist for all seasons and styles, visit:
I am especially pleased that local and imported guest artists such as pianist Randall Hodgkinson, harpsichordist Layton James, cellists Jean-Michel Fonteneau and Parry Karp, percussionist Dane Richeson, and violinists Carmit Zori and Axel Strauss (below) are returning.
I also like that we will hear our share of certified masterworks, including Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C Minor, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor, Brahms’ Piano Quintet, Schubert’s Cello Quintet (at bottom), Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne.” There are also great works by American masters Leonard Bernstein (below), Samuel Barber and Ned Rorem.
In addition, some of the unusual transcriptions and arrangements I always look forward to are making reappearances. That includes a chamber version by Hummel of Mozart’s sublimely beautiful Piano Concerto in D Minor and another chamber version of Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” (The Queen). (Below is a chamber version of a Haydn symphony they did last year at the Stoughton Opera House.)
And of course BDDS will once expose us to some otherwise neglected composers and works including those by Marcelle de Manziarly, Andre Jolivet and Kenji Bunch (below).
There will be more stunning stage installations (below, one from last year in the Overture Center’s Playhouse), fun door prizes and surprise guests.
Adds BDDS’ s Executive Director and chief problem-solver Samantha Crownover: “We’ve got drink special tie-ins with a few places around Madison: Tornado Room, Tempest Oyster Bar, Fresco and Merchant. Of course we’ll have a bar at The Playhouse, too, and audience members can actually bring their cocktails into the theater (in those adult sippy cups). We’ll see how that goes!”
BDDS will have another FREE Family Concert at Overture on June 23. It will feature lots of percussion and two pianos! Then in Stoughton, at the Stoughton Opera House (below), on June 29, we’ll be filmed for Wisconsin Public Television’s Jewel Box Theater Series.
The venues, programs and list of artists are really too extensive for me to list here separately. But trust The Ear, you are sure to find a MUST-HEAR concert on the list – and probably more than one. BDDS is THAT good. So for more information about concert, programs and tickets, visit the BDDS website: http://www.bachdancinganddynamite.org/
You will have fun just contemplating what difficult choice you’ll make – but nowhere near the fun of actually attending a BDDS concert. Their audiences invariably love them and reward the players with a standing ovation.
I’ll drink to that! Cheers!