The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ancora String Quartet will go on a 10-day tour of Germany next August, then tour Wisconsin the follwing month

August 4, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you went to the Ancora String Quartet’s summer concert last Saturday night, you not only heard some outstanding performances of music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Ludwig van Beethoven – along with some rarely heard music by Danish composer Niels Gade.

In case you missed it, here is a review:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/classical-music-the-ancora-string-quartet-turns-in-outstanding-performances-of-beethoven-and-shostakovich-and-revives-a-neglected-quartet-by-danish-composer-niels-gade/

You also got the lowdown on some big news for the chamber music group that just finished its 16th season. Members (below from right in a photo by Barry Lewis) are violinists Wes Luke and Robin Ryan; violist Marika Fischer Hoyt; and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb. (You can hear an earlier membership of the quartet performing music by Grieg in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

In August of 2018, the Ancora String Quartet will go on a 10-day tour of Germany. (They could have been gone for longer, a quartet member explained, but the time is limited by some of the day jobs that some members have.) They will perform concerts in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Kassel and in some castles along the Rhine River.

The string quartet will perform with Melinda Paulsen (below), a mezzo-soprano who is based in Frankfurt, where she also teaches. Born in America, she studied music at Swarthmore College and has made a name for herself in Germany singing and recording operas as well as cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The quartet and Paulsen are deciding on suitable repertoire for that combination of voice and string quartet, which includes works by Richard Wagner, Ottorino Respighi and Samuel Barber.

Then in September, the singer will come to Wisconsin and tour the state with the Ancora String Quartet. The stops in both countries are still being finalized, but Madison and the UW-Whitewater, where the cellist teaches, seem to be sure bets, according to a quartet member.

In other news, according to the quartet’s spokesperson, the Ancora will also soon announce its new season, and there will be some special fundraising concerts during the coming season.

The Ancora, with help from Audio for the Arts, will also soon post some recent concerts on YouTube.

The Ear sends his congratulations and thinks the quartet has been working hard, and turning in many outstanding performances, for many years in order to deserve and get this kind of honor.

Bravo!

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Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra opens its new season with superb playing, hypnotizing space photos by NASA and close to three full houses

September 28, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Several years ago, artistic director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) decided to use the season-opening concerts of the Madison Symphony Orchestra to spotlight the symphony and its first-chair players as soloists.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

No big-name imported guest soloists were to be booked.

In addition, this year Maestro DeMain chose to open the season with a multimedia show that combined Jumbotron-like space images from NASA (below is Jupiter) with Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” 

nasa-jupiter2

Such multimedia events increasingly seem to work as a way to build audiences and boost attendance by new people and young people. After all, a music director has to sell tickets and fill seats as well as wave a baton.

And it seems that, on both counts, DeMain’s strategy proved  spectacularly successful.

All sections of the orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) — strings, brass, winds, percussion — played with energy, precision and subtlety. The MSO proved a very tight ensemble. Each year, you can hear how the MSO improves and grows increasingly impressive after 23 years of DeMain’s direction.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The public seemed to agree. It came very close to filling the 2,200-seat Overture Hall for all three performances with more than 6,100 audience members, according to Peter Rodgers, the new marketing director for the MSO. Especially noteworthy, he said, was the number of children, students and young people who attended.

In fact, so many students showed up for student rush tickets on Friday night that the performance was delayed by around 10 minutes – because of long lines at the box office, NOT because of the new security measures at the Overture Center, which Rodgers said worked smoothly and quickly.

But not everything was ideal, at least not for The Ear.

On the first half, the playing largely outweighed the music.

True,  the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 by a very young George Enescu (below) received a sizzling and infectious performance. With its catchy folk tunes, dance rhythms and Gypsy harmonies, the fun work proved an irresistible opener – much like a starting with an encore, which is rather like eating a rich and tasty dessert before tackling the more nutritious but less snazzy main course.

The music itself is captivating and frequently played – although this was its surprising premiere performance by the MSO. Little wonder the Enescu got a rousing standing ovation. Still, it is hardly great music.

george enescu

Then came the Chaconne for violin and orchestra by the American composer John Corigliano (below), who based the work on his Oscar-winning film score for “The Red Violin.”

John Corigliano

Concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) impressed The Ear and most others with her mastery of what appeared to be a very difficult score. The ovation was for her, not for the music.

Naha Greenholtz playing CR Greg Anderson

That music also has some fine moments. But overall it seems a dull and tedious work, an exercise in virtuosity with some of the same flaws you find in certain overblown piano etudes by Franz Liszt. Once again the playing trumped the music.

Then came The Big Event: Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” coupled with clear, high-definition photos of the planets taken by NASA that were projected on a huge screen above the orchestra. Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s and Venus’ clouds and Mars’ landscape (below) have never looked so impressive.

nasa-mars2

The orchestra again struck one with its exotic and “spacey” sound effects and with what must have been the difficulty of timing simultaneously the music and the images.

Yet ultimately Holst’s work became a sound track — music accompanying images rather than images accompanying the music. The Ear heard several listeners compare the admittedly impressive result to the movies “Fantasia” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That says something.

At some moments the sound and images really matched and reinforced each other, especially in the dramatic opening section, “Mars, the Bringer of War.” Holst’s score also succeeds nicely with “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” and to a lesser degree with “Venus, the Bringer of Peace.”

But overall “The Planets” reminds The Ear of colorful and dramatic  programmatic showpieces such as Ottorino Respighi‘s “The Pines of Rome” and “The Fountains of Rome.” (Earth, curiously, is not included in “The Planets.” Makes you wonder: What would Earth bring?) Enjoyable music, to be sure, but not profound fare.

The Ear’s extensive library of CDs has none of the three works on the program. And it will probably remain that way.

While Holst’s work does have great moments, it grows long, repetitive and finally uninteresting as it ends not with a bang but with an underwhelming whimper – which was beautifully enhanced by the atmospheric singing of the MSO Women’s Chorus. There are just too many planets!

Listen to the YouTube video at the bottom, played by James Levine conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and you will see: Mars rules!

nasa-mars

Add it all up and despite three standing ovations, in the end The Ear found the concert less than fully satisfying. The music, however likable and appealing, was not, for the most part,  great music. Moreover, it was mostly trumped first by the performances and then by the visuals.

So on a personal note, here is The Ear’s request to the MSO, which scored an undeniably brilliant success with this program: Keep the same all-orchestra and first-chair format for season-openers and use multimedia shows whenever appropriate. But please also include at least one really first-rate piece of music with more substance.

Is that asking for too much?

Is The Ear alone and unfair in his assessment? 

Other critics had their own takes and some strongly disagree with The Ear.

Here is a link to three other reviews:

By John W. Barker (below) for Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/music/beautiful-music-distracting-backdrop/

John-Barker

By Jessica Courtier for The Capital Times:

http://host.madison.com/ct/entertainment/music/concert-review-mso-takes-audience-on-a-stunning-trip-to/article_6dd45c4d-c11b-5c77-ae54-35a3e731b1cb.html

And by Greg Hettmansberger (below), who writes for WISC-TV Channel 3 and his Classically Speaking blog for Madison Magazine, and on his own blog, What Greg Says:

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/tag/john-corigliano/

greg hettmansberger mug

What did you think of the music, the performances and the visual show?

How well did they mix?

What did you like most and least?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Assistant conductor and chorus director Beverly Taylor explains her duties and discusses “Carmina Burana,” which the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus plus soloists perform this weekend. Plus, a FREE MSO hymn sing is Saturday at 11 a.m.

April 27, 2016
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ALERT: The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will offer a free hymn sing with Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison in Overture Hall, 201 State Street, in this Saturday, April 30, at 11 a.m. All ages are welcome to join in the singing with the Overture Concert Organ. No tickets or reservations are needed for the free Hymn Sing, which will last approximately 45 minutes.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will close out the current season this weekend with three performances of Carl Orff’s popular 1937 secular or profane oratorio “Carmina Burana” and Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.”

Also participating are Boychoir members from Madison Youth Choirs, Michael Ross, Artistic Director; soprano Jeni Houser, who was acclaimed for her role in the Madison Opera’s recent production of “The Tales of Hoffmann”; tenor Thomas Leighton; and baritone Keith Phares.

The concerts are in Overture Hall, 201 State Street, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

For more information, visit:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/carminaburana

Single tickets are $16 to $85 each, available on the MSO website; the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Here is a link to program notes by Michael Allsen:

http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1516/8.AprMay16.html

Here is a link to translations of the Latin texts:

http://madisonsymphony.org/media/CarminaBuranaTextsTranslations.pdf

This season also marks the 20th anniversary of assistant MSO conductor Beverly Taylor, who also directs choral activities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

The ever-busy Taylor agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear about her duties and the program:

Beverly Taylor MSO portrait COLOR USE

You are the very busy director of choral activities at the UW-Madison. But this is your 20th anniversary directing the Madison Symphony Chorus and serving as assistant conductor of the MSO. Can you take us behind the scenes and tell us what your MSO duties are?

They are three-fold.

First, I’m a “cover” conductor, meaning I’m supposed to be prepared to take over for John DeMain on short notice in case he’s suddenly sick or injured. This hasn’t happened in 20 years, but I HAVE covered some rehearsals by schedule when he’s been out of town or we fear a delayed plane arrival.

Normally the cover conductor conducts the concert if the delay or injury occurs at the beginning of the concert. If it happens in the second half, orchestras often just end the concert—like calling a baseball game after the five official innings.

My second job is preparing the chorus to sing for John De Main. Our rehearsals are like any other chorus rehearsal at first. We focus on notes, intonation, rhythmic accuracy, pronunciation and diction, beautiful phrasing and appropriate tone and balance.

Then closer to the performance, I check with Maestro De Main (below, in a photo by Prasad) on any special markings or tempos he may want. During my early years he often came to our last chorus rehearsal, but we’ve worked together for so many years now that he trusts me to put his choices into the chorus’ training.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

In the long term, my duties also include programming and conducting our non-orchestral concerts, auditioning new singers and ensuring that returning singers keep their abilities high.

My third job is challenging, interesting and fun. It’s to give Maestro Demain information from the audience’s point of view. That means balances between guest soloist and orchestra, balances and rhythmic acuity between sections of the orchestra, and any other notes or opinions that he might find useful.

His own hearing is acute, but anyone who conducts can tell you that the instruments right in front of you make so much noise, that you can’t always judge the relative balances of the orchestra as they project outwards.

Depending on how much time is available in the rehearsal, I make fast notes as the orchestra plays, and give him the notes after the Maestro has done most of his rehearsing. If we’re out of time, I give him the notes backstage and occasionally am asked to pass these notes on to the players involved – for example, a little more triangle, less cello and bass on measures 45-48, etc.)

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

How has the chorus changed over the past two decades?

I think the biggest way in which the chorus has changed is that it sight-reads better and is more acute with a cappella intonation. The main point in having good sight-readers is that it is a HUGE time saver in rehearsal and allows us to get deeper into musical decisions and development. Having said that, we do still take some people with fast ears and good voices who can prove they can keep up.

MSO Chorus CR Greg Anderson

What do you think explains the immense popularity of “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff (below)? How does it compare in popularity to other choral works, especially modern ones?

I think the work is easy to understand. The rhythms are clear, pulsing, repetitive and engaging, and the melodies are memorable and singable. In many ways, it has the appeal of musical comedies. The use of percussion instruments also is appealing and is familiar to people used to bands or popular music. (You can hear the mesmerizing opening in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

While perhaps not the most profound work, it is well crafted. And who hasn’t heard the opening tune in commercial after commercial?

The “modern” style today can’t be well defined because so many composers do so many things. I giggle a bit when audiences say they don’t like dissonance when five minutes in a movie theater with eyes closed will make the listener aware of FAR more dissonant music than in most modern concerts.

Many modern works can be understood at first hearing. Others yield more with a little study. It’s not really different from sports. You may have one person go to a baseball game for the weather, popcorn and home runs who will be disappointed if they miss those. Others will go noticing bad calls for strikes and balls, the stance of the batter, and will quote statistics from past games. They may have a richer experience because they know more, but it doesn’t mean people can’t go and get what they want out of it. Just go to concerts with open minds!

Carl Orff

Are there special things you would like to point out to the public about “Carmina Burana” in general and about this performance in particular?

There are three basic sections to “Carmina,” with an introduction and ending. The opening is based mainly on the subject of Fortune (the introduction) and songs that come out of the monk’s life—some of them were obviously sent to the monastery without a vocation!

The second section is for tenors and basses only—“At the Tavern,” and it’s operatic in its depiction of the fun of mocking life at the monastery, concluding in the great drinking song sung by the men in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan — excuses to toast everyone of every shape and size, and listing who drinks, which is everyone!

The third section, known as the court of love, is beautiful and emotional as the women who know the off-duty monks think about love and if they should yield or not. We finish off with the monumental “O Fortuna” — if Frank Sinatra was singing it would be “sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.”

There are techniques commonly and cheekily attributed to late Romantic works, especially Tchaikovsky: fast is good, loud is better, fast and loud is best. Orff follows this: his pacing builds steadily so that you are swept up in the excitement.

Carmina Burana Fortuna Wheel

Is there anything else you would like to say?

This isn’t the only thing on the program. Most people will adore the gorgeous “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi (below), full of color, majesty and the sound of trumpets all through the hall!

Ottorino Respighi profie

Plus, I give the pre-concert lecture this weekend. It’s free for all ticket-holders and is held in the hall an hour before the performance, lasting for half an hour. This means on Friday, it’s 6:30-7 p.m.; Saturday 7-7:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1:30-2 p.m.


Classical music: Let us now praise afternoon concerts. The Ear looks forward to two this weekend – by the Perlman Piano Trio and the Pro Arte String Quartet. Plus, wind music and harpsichord music are featured this week at the First Unitarian Society of Madison

April 6, 2016
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ALERTS: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, features the Mad Reeds Trio. The group’s members are: Laura Medisky, oboe; Bethany Schultz, clarinet; and Cindy Cameron-Fix, bassoon. They will perform music by Georges Auric, Alexander Tansman and Damian Montano.

Then on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., in the same venue, a recital by harpsichordist Mark Shuldiner. April 9, 7:30 p.m. will feature works by Jean-Henri D’Anglebert, Louis Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Bernardo Storace and Girolamo Frescobaldi.

It is a free concert, but donations will be accepted to benefit Madison Music Makers, which helps underserved children study music.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has always found the weekend afternoons are good times for concerts. One is usually both relaxed and attentive. And indeed, both the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College often schedule appealing concerts at an afternoon time.

They are not alone. As an aside, The Ear recalls that Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. was the preferred time for famed piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz, who felt that then both he and the audience were at their optimum.

Anyway, this weekend there are two FREE chamber music concerts that The Ear wants to draw your attention to.

SATURDAY

On Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, the Perlman Piano Trio (below) will perform its only concert of the season.

The program, all masterpieces, features the Piano Trio in E Major, K. 542, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, by Robert Schumann; and the Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101, by Johannes Brahms.

The trio of scholarship winners, funded by retired chemist Dr. Kato Perlman, consists of Adam Dorn, violin (below left); SeungWha Baek, piano (below center); and Micah Cheng, cello. For the quintet, the trio will be joined by Keisuke Yamamoto on the violin and Luke Carmichael Valmadrid on the viola.

Here is a link with more information:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/the-perlman-piano-trio/

And here is more background from A Tempo, the music blog at the UW-Madison compiled and written by concert manager and publicity director Katherine Esposito:

“It’s my first piano trio,” says violinist Adam Dorn, a Minneapolis native. “It’s very high-caliber playing, very different from anything I’ve ever done. And being given a scholarship to do something that you love is amazing.”

The trio is coached by Martha Fischer, UW-Madison professor of collaborative piano, and Parry Karp, UW-Madison cellist of the Pro Arte Quartet.

A reception will follow the concert.

Perlman Piano Trio 2016

SUNDAY

Then on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) will give a FREE concert of some interesting rarities.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The program features UW-Madison guest soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn (below top), in a work by Ottorino Respighi plus another Respighi work, the Doric Quartet, and the String Quartet No. 3 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below bottom), the Viennese-Czech Jewish composer and child prodigy who was exiled in Hollywood when he fled Hitler, the Nazis and World War II and who made his name and livelihood by composing popular film scores and compositions that won Oscar and Grammy awards.

You can hear the lovely slow movement of Korngold’s String Quartet No. 3 in the YouTube video at the bottom.

To The Ear, the Korngold work seems an especially fitting choice for the Pro Arte Quartet, which was founded in Brussels, Belgium, and itself was exiled in Wisconsin when Hitler invaded its homeland.

The quartet, which had come to play in the Wisconsin Union Theater the complete cycle of string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven, was then offered a job as artists-in-residence at the UW-Madison — the first such appointment anywhere for a musical group — and it has remained here ever since. It is now more than 100 years old, making the Pro Arte Quartet the oldest string quartet in history.

Elizabeth Hagedorn singing 2

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

Here is a link with more information:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pro-arte-quartet-3/


Classical music: This Tuesday night, the Overture Center hosts a choral concert by the Mansfield University Concert Choir and the Madison Youth Choirs under former Madisonian Peggy Dettwiler. Plus, the UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet and soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn perform this afternoon, live and via streaming, at the Chazen Museum of Art.

March 6, 2016
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ALERT: The UW-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet performs at the Chazen Museum of Art today at 12:30 p.m. The concert, which features soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn and includes works by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ottorino Respighi and Ludwig van Beethoven, takes place in Brittingham Gallery 3 and is FREE to the public. You can also stream it live. Here is link:

http://www.chazen.wisc.edu/visit/events-calendar/event/sal-3-6-16/

By Jacob Stockinger

This Tuesday night, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center, there will be a choral concert by the Mansfield University Concert Choir (below) and the Madison Youth Choirs.

Mansfield University Concert Choir

The two groups will perform under the direction of former Madisonian Peggy Dettwiler (below). For more information, visit her web site:

http://www.peggydettwiler.com

Peggy Dettwiler

Composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Villiers Stanford, Olivier Messiaen, Benjamin Britten, Lily Boulanger and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Tickets are $20 except for student rush tickets, which are $10 on the day of the performance.

For tickets and more information, including specific works on the program, go to:

http://madisonsymphony.org/mansfieldchoir

Here is some background:

The Mansfield University Concert Choir directed by Peggy Dettwiler has distinguished itself internationally by winning three gold medals at the World Choir Games in 2012 and the gold medal at the Robert Schumann International Choir Competition in Germany.

(You can hear the Mansfield Choir performing in Carnegie Hall in January, 2014 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The Mansfield Choir will be joined by the Madison Youth Choirs (below top), directed by Michael Ross (below bottom).

Madison Youth Choirs Winter Concert 2014

Michael Ross

Madison Symphony Orchestra organist Samuel Hutchison (below) will accompany the choirs.

Overture Concert Organ overview

Sam Hutchison close up


Classical music: Just a reminder that Friday night the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra again hosts virtuoso flutist Dionne Jackson in music of Bach and Carl Nielsen plus works by Respighi and Haydn

February 16, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

This is a very busy week for classical music in Madison.

But today The Ear wants to remind you of a stand-out concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) on Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.

Tickets are $15-$80.

WCO lobby

The virtuoso flutist Dionne Jackson (below) — who now teaches at the University of Connecticut — will solo with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell.

This marks Jackson’s first return to the WCO since her debut in 2000, when she wowed the crowd with her performance of the snappy and colorful Flute Concerto by the French composer Jacques Ibert.

This time she is performing the Flute Concerto by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen as well as the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 by Johann Sebastian Bach. (You can hear it performed in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Dionne Jackson

To top off the varied program of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century composers – such eclecticism is a hallmark of Sewell’s programming – the WCO will perform the “Ancient Airs and Dances” Suite No. 1, based on lute music of the 16th century, by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.

The WCO’s finale will be the Symphony No. 79 in F Major by Franz Joseph Haydn, whose underappreciated output is quickly becoming a specialty of Maestro Sewell (below) – something to rejoice over since Haydn is, according to American composer John Harbison, easily the most neglected on the great composers.

andrewsewell

Here is more information about the concert, the performers, tickets, the pre-concert dinner and the repertoire:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks-iii-1/


Classical music: Meet Joseph Morris, principal clarinet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. He solos in a concerto by Aaron Copland this weekend.

September 22, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Conductor John DeMain and the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will open the MSO’s 90th season this coming weekend.

The program includes the “Leonore” Overture No. 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Clarinet Concerto by Aaron Copland with MSO principal clarinet Joseph Morris (below, in a photo by Cheryl Savan) as soloist; and the Symphony No. 4 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

joe morris playing CR Cheryl Savan

The concerts in Overture Hall in the Overture Center, 201 State St., are Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen, UW-Whitewater Professor of Music, MSO Trombonist & MSO program notes annotator, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/tchaikovsky

Single Tickets, $16 to $85 each, can be purchased at www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25 percent by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734.

For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Find more information at http://www.madisonsymphony.org.

Clarinetist Joe Morris (below, in a photo by Jennifer Morgan) recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

Jennifer Morgan MSO oboe by Joe Morris

Could you briefly introduce yourself to readers and give some highlights of your education and career?

I grew up in Northern California before heading to Los Angeles where I did my undergraduate degree in Clarinet Performance at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. It was there that I began my studies with Yehuda Gilad (below), who has been, by far, the highlight of my musical education.

After graduating I continued my studies at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, where I received a Professional Studies Certificate in 2014.

Some highlights of my education included summers at the Aspen Music Festival, the National Repertory Orchestra and two summers at the Music Academy of the West studying with Richie Hawley.

I won the MSO’s Principal Clarinet audition out of 44 applicants in 2013 when I was 22 and still studying at Colburn.

This past winter, I joined the Sarasota Opera Orchestra in Florida as their Principal Clarinetist and I have spent the past two summers at the Clarinet Faculty at the Luzerne Music Center in the Adirondack region of New York.

Other highlights of the last few years have been returning to Colburn to perform John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons for solo clarinet and chamber orchestra with Mr. Adams conducting, and competing in the fifth Carl Nielsen International Clarinet Competition in Odense, Denmark.

Yehuda Gilad

How have your years in Madison with the MSO been?

I have enjoyed the past two seasons in Madison very much! Madison is a wonderful city and it has been very fun to get to explore all that it has to offer.

I love the sense of community in Madison and especially how that extends to the MSO (below). My colleagues in the orchestra are fantastic players as well as wonderful people. Everyone brings out the best in one another throughout the rehearsal and performance process.

It has also been a huge honor to receive the support of the MSO audiences who never cease to amaze me with their knowledge and enthusiasm for what we do on stage.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

What was your Aha! moment –- perhaps a performer or a specific performance or a piece of music — when you first knew you wanted to be a professional musician?

When I was 15, I spent a summer at the Interlochen Arts Camp (below) in Michigan. After a summer of intense study, I realized that I had to pursue music as a career. More than anything it was the shared experience with my peers, who felt the same intensity for music that I did, that brought me to that conclusion.

At the end of every summer at Interlochen the entire camp performs Franz Liszt’s Les Preludes together in an enormous musical collaboration. That specific performance will always remain in my memory as something that laid the foundation for my decision to go into music.

Interlochen Arts Academy

How do you compare the Copland Concerto to other well-known clarinet concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Nielsen and Gerald Finzi (which you performed with the Middleton Community Orchestra). And what would you like listeners to know about the Copland Clarinet Concerto in terms of its structure, technical difficulties, melodies and harmonies, whatever?

One thing that always interests me about works for the clarinet is whom the composer had in mind when they wrote it. For Mozart, that was Anton Stadler; for Nielsen, it was Aage Oxenvad; for Johannes Brahms, it was Richard Muhlfeld; and for Copland, it was Benny Goodman. And Benny Goodman’s style, especially as a big band jazz musician, is extremely apparent in this concerto.

It opens with a first movement that is more typically Copland (below top) than Goodman (below bottom) — with huge interval leaps in the solo line over truly gorgeous string writing. It reminds me of the opening passage of his “Appalachian Spring,” which, coincidentally, was the first piece I ever performed with the MSO.

Following the lyrical “first movement” is an extended cadenza where Goodman starts to take over as the piece morphs into something much more lively and jazz based. After the cadenza the orchestra comes back in for a sort of “second movement” that eventually comes to a very frenzied and glissando-laden finish.

(You can hear the first movement played by Benny Goodman with composer Aaron Copland conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

aaron copland

Benny Goodman

Apart from concertos and chamber music specifically written for the clarinet, what orchestral works have your favorite clarinet parts?

I love the way the clarinet timbre can emerge from the orchestra with a sort of floating quality in a lyrical passage. For that reason two of my favorite orchestral works for the clarinet are Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” which the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) will perform at its April 29-May 1 concerts.

What else would you like to say?

I’m very excited for this upcoming concerto both because of the opportunity to perform this concerto with my marvelous colleagues, and also to then get to sit in the orchestra with them all for Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

 


Classical music: Oakwood Chamber Players continues its 30th anniversary retrospective with a concert highlighting harp music this coming Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

March 9, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following press release from his friends at the Oakwood Chamber Players (below), a group known for both its fine playing and its explorations of neglected repertoire.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 1

As the Oakwood Chamber Players continue to celebrate its 30th anniversary season, the ensemble is pleased to present Replay! on this coming Saturday night, March 14, and Sunday afternoon, March 15. The concerts will feature guest harpist Linda Warren (below).

linda warren

The concerts are Saturday, March 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 15, at 1:30 p.m. Both concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, on Madison far west side.

Tickets are available at the door, and are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and $5 for students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.

Oakwood wheelchair

This is the fourth of five concerts in the Oakwood Chamber Players celebratory 30th anniversary season series titled “Reprise! Looking Back Over 30 Years.” Remaining concerts include Reissue! on May 23 and May 24.

The works to be performed this weekend include:

Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp by Claude Debussy (1862-1918). It was last performed by the Oakwood Chamber Players in 1991. This Sonata was written in 1915, and was one of Debussy’s last works before his death in 1918. (You can hear the lovely Pastorale movement from the Debussy sonata, as played by flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and harpist Lily Laskine, in a YouTube video at the bottom.) 

Debussy (below) initially planned this as a piece for flute, oboe and harp. He subsequently decided that the viola’s timbre would be a better combination for the flute than the oboe’s. He changed the instrumentation to flute, viola and harp, creating a more characteristic mellifluous sound that audiences associate with Debussy’s compositions.

Claude Debussy 1

“Esquisse,” a pastoral sketch for flute, horn and harp written by renowned horn player and esteemed teacher at the Paris Conservatory, Georges Barboteu (below, 1924-2006).

Georges Barboteu color

The elegance and charm of Ottorino Respighi (below, 1879-1936) will be highlighted in three movements of the “Ancient Airs and Dances.” The composer’s fascination with 16-18th century Italian music resulted in compelling representation of the era in Balletto detto “Il Conte Orland,” Villanelle and Gagliarda that will be performed by a combination of winds and strings.

Ottorino Respighi profie

Schlummerlied, Op. 76 (Slumber Song) for clarinet, horn, harp by Robert Volkmann (1815-1883). Volkmann (below) was a contemporary of Wagner whose inspirations were Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann.

Robert Volkmann

Quartet No. 6, Op. 19, in F major for bassoon, violin, viola, cello by Karl Stamitz (1745-1801). His fine compositional skills are demonstrated in the interplay between the bassoon and strings and show why he continues to be the most performed composer associated with an era of high performance standards of the “Mannheim School.”

Karl Stamitz

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for 30 years. Members have been active with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and other groups.

The Oakwood Chamber Players is a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players announces its 30th anniversary season –- and gives up performing at the UW-Madison Arboretum.

August 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming season the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) turns 30.

30years-logo

The group, which features talented players and seasoned professionals — who also play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music —  in repertoire that is often neglected or unknown or new, will mark the occasion by reprising works from past concerts. Think of it as a season of Golden Oldies.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 3

The real news to The Ear is that the group will no longer play one of its two weekend performances at the Visitor Center (below) in the Arboretum.

Here is how one spokesperson explained it: “While we really appreciated the environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, as well as the exposure to a different audience, the decision to hold both concerts at Oakwood was a financial one — as these things too often unfortunately are.

“There are space and piano rental fees at the Arboretum that we don’t incur at Oakwood that were making the concerts cost-prohibitive to hold there, and our audience size was not adequately offsetting these expenses.”

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

Here is an introduction plus a list of the 30th anniversary season programs:

Reprise!

Looking Back Over 30 Years

Looking back over 30 years of music making, the Oakwood Chamber Players remember great performances of unique and much-loved works of art.  We also honor the fun and richness we’ve shared with our musician friends; some who have been with us for a single concert or a few years and others who have shared the stage with us for three decades.

And of course our trip down memory lane would not be complete without thoughts of all the terrific audiences who have honored us with their support and applause.

And so we come to this season, one of looking back, still with anticipation of what is to come!  We hope you will join us on the journey!”

Concerts are Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.  All 2014-15 concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705

Ticket prices are: Senior Single — $15/concert; Senior Series – $65/season; Adult Single – $20/concert; Adult Series – $85/season; Student Single – $5/concert.

For more information, visit: http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

September 13 and 14, 2014 — REWORK!

Johannes Brahms (below top): Sonatas for Clarinet/Piano and Viola/Piano

Ferdinand Ries (below bottom): Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello

(Brahms Sonatas … one which the composer reworked from clarinet to viola)

brahms3

Ferdinand Ries

November 28 and 30, 2014 — REMIX!  

“Christmas Lights” Memories: Various selections from our long history of Christmas Lights performances (originally performed November, 1994)

NOTE: The dates and times for the November concerts are: Friday, November 28, 2014 at 1 p.m.; and Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

January 17 and 18, 2015 — RECAPITULATE!  

Bedrich Smetana  (below top): Trio for violin, cello and piano, Op. 15 in g minor (originally performed May, 2004)

Leos Janacek (below bottom): “Mladi” (Youth) for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and bass clarinet (originally performed July, 1989/May 2004)

Adolf Schreiner: “Immer Kleiner” for clarinet and piano (originally performed May, 2006)

bedrich smetana

Leos Janacek

March 14/15, 2015 — REPLAY!  

Claude Debussy (below top): Sonata for flute, viola and harp (originally performed November, 1990)

Ottorino Respighi (below bottom): “Ancient Airs and Dances” (originally performed January, 2005, and heard in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Claude Debussy 1

Ottorino Respighi

May 23/24, 2015 — REISSUE!

Aaron Copland (below top): “Appalachian Spring” for 13 instruments; (originally performed November, 1989)

Carl Nielsen (below bottom): “Serenato in Vano” for clarinet, horn, bassoon cello and bass (originally performed June, 1993/May, 2009)

aaron copland

Carl Nielsen at piano

 


Classical music: This week is loaded with terrific FREE vocal and instrumental concerts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College as well as elsewhere.

March 18, 2013
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A REMINDER: The final performance of University Opera’s production of Mascagni’s opera “L’Amico Fritz” will take place Tuesday night at 7:30 in Music Hall. Aldo Perelli and Shannon Prickett (below, in a photo by Brent Nicastro) are featured in starring roles. Here is a link to a review by John W. Barker for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=39412&sid=d5dd06c8fbafef9a2cb026b18818c449

And here is a link to other information including ticket prices, which students sing when, and a Q&A with director William Farlow and some background, including which UW-Madison student sings what roles on what day:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/classical-music-qa-university-opera-director-william-farlow-talks-about-why-he-likes-mascagnis-rarely-staged-opera-lamico-fritz-which-will-get-three-performances-on-friday-night-sunday/

L'Amico Fritz 3 Also Perrelli and Shannon Prickett CR Brent Nicastro

By Jacob Stockinger

I hope it doesn’t feel awkward to lump two competing educational institutions together. But they cooperate more than they compete. Plus, there is so much music this week – again – that it would be hard to fit it all in with each event getting its own post.

So here is a line-up of concerts – all of them are FREE – at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Edgewood College.

TUESDAY

On Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Concert Band will perform a concert under director Mike Leckrone (below). Sorry, but no details yet about the program.

leckrone

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of conductor James Smith (below top), will perform with retiring oboe professor Marc Fink (below bottom).

The program features Respighi’s “Three Botticelli Pictures”; Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major, K 314, with Fink as soloist; and Beethoven’s sublime Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, considered by many, including the composer, the be among his best works.

This program sure seems perfectly suited to the First Day of Spring with the impulsive Beethoven, the sensual Italian Renaissance inspirations and the always graceful and charming aria-like lines of Mozart.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

marc fink big

THURSDAY

Then on Thursday night, at 7:30 in Mills Hall, UW-Madison conductor and graduate student David Grandis (below top) will conduct the UW Symphony Strings in a all-Bizet concert that features three UW-trained singers; mezzo-soprano Jennifer D’Agostino (below second, who used to be known as Jennifer Sams), tenor Daniel O’Dea (below third) and baritone Michael Roemer (below bottom).

The program includes the “Carillon” excerpt from Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne” Suite (The Woman from Arles) and from Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers.” (Hear the fabulous male duet from the opera in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

David Grandis

SOMMA Jennifer Sams D'Agostino

Daniel O'Dea

Michael Roemer naritone

FRIDAY

The weekly Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature classical guitarist Jamie Guiscafre, who teaches in Iowa but lives in Madison, performing music by Albeniz, Brouwer and Guiscafre.

Jaime Guiscafre

At 7 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood college Drive, the Edgewood College, the Edgewood College Band (below), under the direction of Walter Rich, will perform a concert.

Along with other featured works, the band will perform Franz von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture, Claude T. Smith’s Incidental Suite, and Brian Balmages’ Summer Dances.

This event, like other arts events at Edgewood College, is presented as part of the Year of the Arts at Edgewood College, a celebration of music, theatre and art for 2012-2013. Supporters of our Year of the Arts programming include the Kohler Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, the Madison Arts Commission, with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, DANE Arts with additional funds from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, Native Capital Investment, and the Ahrens-Washburn Community Fellows Program.

Walter Rich  Edgewood Concert Band 2013-3-22-Band

SUNDAY

The weekly “Sunday Live From the Chazen” concert, to be held from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3 and broadcast live statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio, will feature the pianist Namji Kim, who teaches at the UW-Eau Claire.

The program includes Olivier Messiaen’s “Je dors, mais mon coeur veille” (I Sleep but My Heart Keeps Watch) from “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus” (Twenty Meditations on the Baby Jesus); Hadyn’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, Hob. XVI 49; Ravel’s “Alborada Del Gracioso”; and Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor Op. 58. 

Dr. Namji Kim

Three Edgewood College Choral Ensembles will perform a concert on Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive. The Chamber Singers and Men’s Choir (below right and left, respectively) are under the direction of Albert Pinsonneault, while Kathleen Otterson will direct the Women’s Choir (below middle).

Included on the joint program are works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, and Faure, as well as folk songs, spirituals, and selections by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Edgewood Men's and Women's Choirs and Chamber Siungers 3-24-13

 


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