The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Salon Piano Series at Farley’s House of Piano announces its new season of four concerts

August 8, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The reliably virtuosic and musically enjoyable Salon Piano Series has just announced its 2017-18 season.

A piano duo, piano soloists and the Pro Arte Quartet provide traditional salon concert experiences with informal seating and restored pianos.

The 2017-18 Salon Piano Series season again includes piano soloists and ensembles typical of 19th-century European salon concerts, with well-known concert artists from Italy, Russia, Israel and Ireland.

According to a press release, the season’s offerings are:

Roberto Plano and Paola Del Negro Duo (below) on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 at 4 p.m.

Italian husband and wife piano duo Roberto Plano and Paola Del Negro kick off the season with Schumann’s “Pictures from the East” (Bilder aus Osten, Op. 66), Brahms’ Hungarian Dances 1-5, “The Moldau” by Smetana, and Brahms’ Sonata for Two Pianos, Op. 34b, the earlier version of his great Piano Quintet. The duo will perform on one piano for the first half of the program and on two for the second half. (You can hear them perform Hungarian Dances by Brahms in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Ilya Yakushev (below) on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at 4 p.m.

Returning by popular demand, Ilya Yakushev will perform an exhilarating program of Haydn’s Piano Sonata in D Major, Tchaikovsky’s “Sentimental Waltz,” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in his November concert.

Alon Goldstein (below top) and the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet (below bottom in a photo by Rick Langer) on Saturday night, March 10, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon, March 11, 2018 at 4 p.m.

To accommodate the crowds, Salon Piano Series booked two performances for Alon Goldstein and the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet in March. Goldstein will perform selected Scarlatti sonatas solo, then the Pro Arte Quartet and bassist David Scholl will join him for Mozart Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, in a reduced arrangement, and the Brahms Piano Quintet, Op. 34.

John O’Conor (below) on Saturday, May 12, 2018, 7:30 p.m.

To cap off the season in May, the great Irish pianist John O’Conor will perform Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert in his first Salon Piano Series appearance.

Visit salonpianoseries.org for complete concert programs, and artist information.

All concerts are at Farley’s House of Pianos, at 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west wide near West Towne Mall. All concert includes a post-concert artist reception.

Tickets are $50 at the door or $45 in advance; season tickets are $150.

You can purchase tickets online at brownpapertickets.com or in-person at Farley’s House of Pianos. Service fees may apply.

About the Salon Piano Series

Now in its fifth season, Salon Piano Series was founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

The setting replicates that experienced by audiences throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and offers audiences the chance to hear artists whose inspiring performances are enhanced by the setting and the fine pianos.

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Classical music: Con Vivo opens its 15th season this Saturday night with chamber music and a jazz trio from Germany

October 5, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received a the following announcement to post:

Con Vivo!…music with life (below), opens its 15th season with a chamber music concert entitled “All That Jazz” on this Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.

con-vivo-2016

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.

Con Vivo!’s fall concert, “All That Jazz” features pieces from our standard repertoire as well as jazz music performed by the Edgar Knecht Jazz Trio visiting from our Sister County in Kassel, Germany.

The trio’s appearance is in conjunction with their Dane County visit as a cultural exchange reciprocating con vivo!’s Germany tour in 2015.

Here is the program: “Man Nozipo” for string quartet and percussion by Dumisani Maraire; Selected movements from “Benny’s Gig” for clarinet and double bass by Morton Gould; Rhapsody in Blue arranged for solo organ, by George Gershwin; “Overture on Hebrew Themes” by Sergei Prokofiev; Divertimento in F Major, K. 138, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and various selections of original music for jazz trio by Edgar Knecht.

Audience members are invited to join the musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss the concert.

In remarking about the concert, artistic director Robert Taylor said: “With this Con Vivo! concert, we are hosting the Edgar Knecht Trio as well as doing some collaborative pieces with members from both of our groups. (You can hear a sample in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

“I think this a great way to begin our 15th season with exceptional music that combines the wonderful sounds of winds, strings and organ along with jazz. Our Madison audience will be able to hear our musicians up close and personal playing music of extreme delight and depth.”

For more information, visit: http://www.convivomusicwithlife.org/home.html

Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.


Classical music: Two FREE concerts Monday night feature wind music by Black Marigold and contemporary music for duo-pianists, including a work by UW-Madison composer Joseph Koykkar.

November 17, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Just a reminder that there will be two FREE concerts on Monday night that might interest you.

The first is by the wind quintet Black Marigold (below). It will perform in the auditorium at Oakwood Village West, 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side, on Monday night at 7 p.m.

The program includes: Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, transcribed by Don Stewart; “Five Frogs” by Jenni Brandon; “The Rite of Spring” (its centennial is this year) by Igor Stravinsky, as arranged by Jonathan Russell; and “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, arranged by Ernst-Thilo Kalke.

For more information, visit: www.blackmarigold.com

Black Marigold 2

Then at 7:30 in Morphy Recital Hall on the UW-Madison campus, Duo ARTIA duo-pianists Jeri-Mae Astolfi and Holly Roadfeldt, who have been on a fall concert tour of Minnesota and Wisconsin, will perform a FREE recital.

Jeri-Mae Astolfi

holly roadfeldt

The program includes some modern and mostly contemporary music including works by Bela Bartok, Witold Lutoslawski, James Wilding, Yehuda Yannay, James Leatherbarrow, Robert Patterson, Ed Martin, Kirk O’Riordan and UW-Madison composer Joseph Koyykar (below).

joseph koykkar color


Classical music news: Everyone loves a Gershwin tune. That’s why George Gershwin is the go-to composer when symphony orchestras want to drum up attendance and close seasons on a high note.

May 18, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

 “You know, it is going to be hard to get good seats. This concert is really popular and has very sold well,” said the Overture Center’s box office agent when I went to exchange tickets to last weekend’s all-Gershwin concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra from Sunday afternoon to Friday night.

And she was right.

So I ended up sitting pretty close to the stage, with a somewhat limited vision of the soloists and especially of the full orchestra and chorus.

But one look backwards over my shoulder, out into beautiful Overture Hall, and I saw how packed the 2,200-seat hall was – and it was really packed. That is surely an enviable way to end a season on a high note.

Not that it was unexpected.

By now we all should know that MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below) has a special talent for Gershwin. He is closely identified with the opera “Porgy and Bess.” His recording of it won a Grammy, and he has conducted it some 400 times all over the country, including at the City Opera in New York City from which it was broadcast on PBS’ “Great Performances.”

While I don’t have exact attendance figures, it sure seems like houses were very good, even if the Sunday performance was a little under-attended because of Mother’s Day. One MSO player even commented that it was such a pleasure to play before a big and appreciative audience. So much for the terrific commercial success of closing out the season.

So artistically, how did the MSO do?

Well as you will see below, the critics, including The Ear, are pretty much unanimous in their judgments: the all-Gershwin concert was great artistic success for the MSO and DeMain as well as for the soloists and Madison Symphony Chorus.

How could it be otherwise?

That’s why Venezuelan-born and –trained superstar maestro Gustavo Dudamel (below) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic did a Hi-Def international satellite broadcast of Gershwin. Why Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony did one. Why Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic did an all-Gershwin broadcast for New Year’s Eve on PBS’ “Live From Lincoln Center.” And it also why the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, under Andrew Sewell, opened this past season with Gershwin’s  “Rhapsody in Blue” with the young Russian virtuoso pianist Ilya Yakushev as the soloist.

So here is how the MSO’s all-Gershwin fete sounded to The Ear.

The orchestra and Madison Symphony Chorus performed superbly and tightly and with all the tonal color and dance-like, bluesy rhythms that Gershwin demands, right down to the French taxi horns and Cuban percussion. They sounded balanced with convincing dynamics and a big sound.

The soloists were, for the most part, terrific and absolutely first-rate. DeMain knows how to pick singers, and they brought off the authentic Gershwin sound with infectious conviction. This music left you pleased, happy and satisfied. George Gershwin’s music seems one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, can agree on these days.

I guess that’s good.

The first half of the concert was devoted to the popular shorter pieces: the “Cuban” Overture, “An American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” The entire second half was devoted to an extremely well-constructed concert version, by orchestrator and arranger Richard Russell Bennett (below), of “Porgy and Bess” that reduced the four-hour opera to 40 minutes.

The singers, soprano Laquita Mitchell (below top) and baritone Michael Redding (below bottom), both did an outstanding job with the 40-minute concert version of the 4-hour opera “Porgy and Bess.” Redding especially brought out the characters of the roles he sang. He projected right off the stage and was rewarded with loud cheers from the audience.

My biggest disappointment – and it wasn’t all that big– came in the “Rhapsody in Blue.” Dressed fittingly in a bright blue gown, pianist Martina Filjak (below) played the Rhapsody well. She sure has chops, but great interpretations require more than great chops. I found her technique too prominent. She seemed to bang it out at times when it could have used a subtler, softer and more seductive approach. This Gershwin work is more French than Russian, more Ravel than Rachmaninoff. She should listen to Oscar Levant’s old recording.

But what I am really left with is how my overall impression of Gershwin, to whom I previously had paid only passing attention, took shape.

I loved the Gershwin concert while I was in it. But as soon as I left it, I found the music did not stick with me except for some tunes and some lyrics. And it did not make me ask questions or leave me wanting more.

And that, in turn, tells me why Gershwin is so popular.

Gershwin (below), who died prematurely of a brain tumor at 38, was clearly a Tin Pan Alley composer. He composed some dozen Broadway musicals before he even took up writing music for the concert hall. And that experience shows.

There is an ease and naturalness about listening to a Gershwin tune. When the famous Burton Lane song asks “I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?” who could possibly answer “Well, I don’t.” Gershwin’s songs are irresistible. They watch over you.

But if I compare the “Rhapsody in Blue” to, say, Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 or Schumann’s Piano Concerto or Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no. 3, I have no problem knowing which one I would and wouldn’t want to hear repeatedly, which one lacks development and depth, and which one has them.

The “Rhapsody in Blue” is engaging and exciting while it lasts, but then it is over. On the other hand, the other more substantial works may not be as easily digestible, but their nourishment is more sustaining and they continue to yield up insights on repeated hearings.

It’s not that Gershwin is a crossover or superficial composer, even though he is used in a lot of ads. As DeMain explained in his illuminating comments before the performances, Gershwin does indeed define an identifiably American sound. But let’s be honest:  Gershwin’s American sound is closer to song masters George M. Cohan, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern than to composers Charles Ives and Aaron Copland.

You can take Gershwin (below) out of Broadway. But, like the music of Leonard Bernstein – a Gershwin champion and DeMain mentor whose greatest and most beloved is theater music from “West Wide Story” and “Candide” – you can’t take Broadway out of Gershwin. And Broadway is nothing, if not popular.

Little wonder that we remember “An American in Paris” from Gene Kelly’s Hollywood choreography. And little wonder that even “Porgy and Bess,” a genuinely sincere attempt at serious concert music, got treated this last year to a controversial ADD makeover for today’s Broadway.

This love of Gershwin is here to stay.

What did others think?

Here is John W. Barker’s review for Isthmus:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=36737

Here is a Lindsay Christians’ review for 77 Square, The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal:

http://host.madison.com/entertainment/arts_and_theatre/reviews/travel-from-cuba-to-porgy-s-wharf-with-mso-s/article_702d9b84-9c59-11e1-a1d2-0019bb2963f4.html

Here is a review by Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine and his blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/May-2012/Madison-Symphony-Season-Closes-with-Gobs-of-Gershwin/index.php

Here is a review by Bill Wineke for WISC-TV and Channel3000.com:

http://www.channel3000.com/entertainment/Review-Concert-shows-why-we-love-Gershwin-tunes/-/1628/13193028/-/2qgj2ez/-/index.html


Classical music datebook: An all-Gershwin concert closes out the Madison Symphony Orchestra season this weekend. Plus, early vocal music by Eliza’s Toyes and “revolutionary” vocal music by the Madison Youth Choirs will be performed.

May 9, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

After the last three weeks, which were super busy with concerts, it is refreshing to have a relative breather leading into Mother’s Day this Sunday.

It’s happening later than usual, but the big MUST-HEAR event this week is that the Madison Symphony Orchestra is closing out is current season this coming weekend.

The program is an appealing all-Gershwin program – a natural fit for MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in photo by James Gill), who won a Grammy for his authentic production of the opera “Porgy and Bess.” He has since conducted it over 400 times, including a one show that was broadcast nationwide on PBS’ “Great Performances.”

Excerpts of “Porgy and Bess’ with will performed with singers soprano Laquita Mitchell (below) and baritone Michael Redding in solo roles. Also included are “An American in Paris,” the “Cuban” Overture and the evergreen “Rhapsody in Blue” with pianist Martina Filjak. The Madison Symphony Chorus, under Beverly Taylor, will also perform.

Always popular, the music of George Gershwin (below) is undergoing a major revival, it seems to The Ear. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra opened this past season with the “Rhapsody in Blue.” Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic did a Gershwin concert for HD satellite broadcast.  Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony also did a Gershwin concert.

Some of the best commentary and analysis I’ve ever heard about the music of Gershwin came on Wisconsin Public Radio on Monday. That is when DeMain appeared with host Norman Gilliland on The Midday (noon to 1 p.m.).

DeMain sat at the studio keyboard and played snippets and sang – not a voice to win the Met auditions but quite serviceable — as he demonstrated all sorts of things. He showed how carefully Gershwin structured “Porgy and Bess.” He demonstrated why Gershwin (below) is as much a classical composer as he is a jazz, popular or crossover composer. He explained how an orchestra “swings” a rhythm. He talked about various piano soloists, including Leonard Bernstein, who wrongly think they can “improve” the “Rhapsody in Blue” by taking liberties with the notes, rhythm and tempi. He showed how Gershwin loved and incorporated the music of J.S. Bach. And his wit and good humor matched his deep knowledge and extensive first-hand experience.

It was a brilliant and accessible, amiable and witty discussion that all Gershwin fans, and especially non-Gershwin fans, would be smart to listen to. Hands down, it was the best introduction to Gershwin that The Ear has ever heard.

When I last looked for  the interview-demonstration, it was not yet posted in WPR’s Audio Archives. But I suspect it will be shortly. So here it s a link:

http://www.wpr.org/midday/

In the meantime, the all-Gershwin concerts will be held in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.50 to $78.50. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

For more information, visit: http://madisonsymphony.org/gershwin

For program notes by J. Michael Allsen, visit:

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1112/8.May12.html

FRIDAY

Friday’s FREE Noon Musicale, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianists Sonya Clark and Leo Van Asten who will perform music for piano-four hands by Dvorak, Ginastera, Schubert, Brahms and Van Asten. For information, call 608 233-9774 or visit www.fusmadison.org

SATURDAY

At 7:30 p.m. in the downtown historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue (below) in James Madison Park, 302 East Gorham Street, the local early music, period instrument and vocal ensemble Eliza’s Toyes and guests will be performing rarely heard music composed by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt.

The concert, titled “The three Sch’s: Music By Schütz, Schein, and Scheidt,” includes a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.

The program by Eliza’s Toyes (below) will showcase some of their best works, both sacred and secular. Highlights include Scheidt’s most somber setting of “Miserere mei Deus” for soprano and 5 low voices, and his uplifting setting of Psalm 148 in German “Lobet, ihr Himmel den Herren”; Schein’s motet “Ach Herr, ach meiner schone”, and a very funny song from his 1626 collection “Studentenschmaus”; and selections of Schütz’s rarely heard Italian madrigals, particularly “Vasto Mar” for 8 voices.

Besides musicians from the regular ensemble, special guests viol player Eric Miller (belowl) and Lawrence Conservatory faculty organist Kathrine Handford will be joining in the music making.

At 7 p.m. in the same venue, there will be a pre-concert lecture titled “Singing the Reformation”, by Erin Lambert, A.W. Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Fellow in History and a Ph.D. candidate in early modern European history at UW-Madison.

Here are some program notes from director and performing member of Eliza’s Toyes, Jerry Hui:

“Schütz, among the three featured composers, received the most household recognition because his career spanned across several countries. However, they all were regarded highly. Singled out by the 17th-century German composer/theorist Wolfgang Caspar Printz as the best German composers in his book “Historische Beschreibung” (1690), they were important in cultivating a distinctly German musical style, and their work would influence generations of composers to come —from J.S. Bach in later Baroque period, to Brahms in the Romantic period, and even to Hugo Distler of the 20th century.”

Adds Hui (below): “Much of these composers’ music, driven strongly by modal counterpoint but also showing influence of Baroque harmonic progression, are not heard as frequently as they should. Perhaps this is because many other Baroque composers — such as Bach and Sweelinck — worked around that time period wrote in a style that is more distinguishable from what is considered the Renaissance period. Also, the vocal range demanded by these composers from the choir often differs from the standard setup of a four-part choir, especially in requiring more low altos or high tenors.”

For more information about the program and Eliza’s Toyes, visit: http://toyes.info

SUNDAY

From 12:30 to 2 p.m. “Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen” closes out its current season with pianist Raffi Basalyan (below) in Brittingham Gallery Number III at the Chazen Museum of Art, 759 University Ave. This will be his fourth appearance on “Sunday Afternoon Live.”

The program includes Baghdassarian’s Prelude in B minor; Bach/Busoni: Two Chorale Preludes; Liszt’s Transcendental Etude #10 in F minor and “Mephisto Waltz”; and Rachmaninoff’s “Polka de WR” and Sonata No. 2, Op. 36.

 As usual, the concert will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Members of the Chazen Museum of Art or Wisconsin Public Radio can call ahead and reserve seats for Sunday Afternoon Live performances. Seating is limited. All reservations must be made Monday through Friday before the concert and claimed by 12:20 p.m. on the day of the performance. For more information or to learn how to become a museum member, contact the Chazen Museum at (608) 263-2246.

A reception will follow the performance with treats, coffee, and tea donated by local businesses. We would like to thank our generous donors, Fresh Madison Market, Steep & Brew, and Coffee Bytes. A free docent-led tour in the Chazen galleries begins every Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area Performing Arts Center (below) at 2100 Bristol Street, in Middleton High School, the Madison Youth Choirs will perform their spring concert series, entitled Revolution!

These concerts focus on the connections between music and social change. Featuring music from “revolutionary” composers along with compositions from the Civil Rights movement, Revolutionary War, anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa and the Estonian “singing revolution.”

Selections by Brahms, Billings, Britten, Persichetti, Vittoria, Handel, and more will be featured.

Here is the schedule of performers and programs:

2 p.m.: three boychoirs (Purcell, Britten, Holst) and three girlchoirs (Choraliers, Con Gioia, Capriccio)

7 p.m.: three high school ensembles (Cantilena, Cantabile, Ragazzi)

Tickets are $9 plus a processing fee in advance or $12 at the door. Children 7 and under are free.

About Madison Youth Choirs (MYC): According to the organization, “Madison Youth Choirs strives to create a community of young musicians dedicated to musical excellence through which we inspire enjoyment, enhance education, and nurture personal, musical, and social development, by the study and performance of high-quality and diverse choral literature. To this end, we focus on the process and provide singers a rich rehearsal experience where thoughtful discussion and activities lead to larger connections and a music education that becomes a springboard for understanding the world.”

For more information, visit: www.madisonyouthchoirs.org


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