The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Four UW-Madison concerto competition winners and a student composer will be featured in a special concert and reception this coming Sunday night at 7.

February 3, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The big event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music this week, is the “Symphony Showcase” concert on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. in Mills Hall.

The concert will spotlight the annual concerto competition winners plus a new work by a student composer.

It is a special ticketed event that includes a post-concert reception in the lobby outside Mills Hall. Tickets cost $10; students get in for free.

The competition winners (below from left to right, in a photo by Michael R. Anderson) are: Keisuke Yamamoto; Ivana Ugrcic; Jason Kutz; and Anna Whiteway.

2014 Concerto Winners

Here are brief profiles including the works they will perform and the teachers they study with:

Jason Kutz, piano, a master’s candidate studying with collaborative pianist Martha Fischer. Kutz, who also performs and composes jazz music, is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin, and studied recording technology and piano at UW-Oshkosh. He will perform “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” Op. 43, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which contains the famous 18th Variation (which you can hear at the bottom in a popular YouTube video as performed by Arthur Rubinstein and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner.)

Ivana Ugrcic, flute, a doctoral student and Collins Fellow studying with flutist Stephanie Jutt. A native of Serbia, Ugrcic has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over Europe, and received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from University of Belgrade School of Music. She will perform “Fantaisie Brillante” (on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen) by Francois Borne.

Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, an undergraduate student of Pro Arte violinist David Perry, earning a double degree in music performance and microbiology. Keisuke, born in Japan but raised in Madison, received a tuition remission scholarship through UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and also won honors in Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Competition, among others. He will perform “Poème,” Op. 25 by Ernest Chausson.

Anna Whiteway, an undergraduate voice student, studying with Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting professor of voice. Whiteway is a recipient of a Stamps Family Charitable Foundation scholarship as well as the Harker Scholarship for opera. Whiteway, who was praised in 2013 for her singing in University Opera’s production of “Ariodante” by George Frideric Handel, will star in the The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart this spring. For this night’s performance, she will sing Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Aria) by Charles Gounod.

The composition winner this year is graduate student Adam Betz (below), a Two Rivers native who wrote a work titled Obscuration. Betz received his undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, where he was named Outstanding Senior Composer. He also holds a master’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis.

Here is a link to Betz’s website:

http://adambetz.webstarts.com/about.html

adam betz

The opening work, the curtain-raiser so to speak, is advertised to be Capriccio Italienne by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But an orchestra player says it will be the Overture to the operetta “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss, Jr.

The concert will also feature the UW Symphony Orchestra under chief conductor James Smith (below top) and graduate student conductor Kyle Knox (below bottom).

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

Kyle Knox 2

 


Classical music Q&A: Russian pianist Olga Kern explains the popularity of Russian music. She performs Rachmaninoff this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

October 13, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Not only does the Russian pianist Olga Kern (below, in a photo by Chris Lee) play Russian music superbly, she speaks about it just as well, even eloquently and poetically.

Olga Kern

Witness her remarks below, which serve as an introduction to Kern, who will return to Madison to solo this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) under longtime music director and conductor John DeMain.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

The all-Russian program includes the Suite from “Swan Lake” by Peter Tchaikovsky; the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff; and the Symphony No. 6 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $16-$84 with student rush tickets available. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Here is link to the MSO’s webpage about the concert, which includes biographical information, program notes and some audiovisual clips.

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/kern

And here is a link to the always comprehensive and informative but accessible program notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot).

http://facstaff.uww.edu/allsenj/MSO/NOTES/1415/2.Oct14.html

J. Michael Allsen Katrin Talbot

The half-hour pre-concert talk will be given by the accomplished violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below). She plays with the MSO, the Madison Bach Musicians and the Ancora String Quartet and who also serves as a weekend host for Wisconsin Public Radio. The FREE talk starts in Overture Hall one hour before the start of the concert.

MarikaFischerHoyt

NOTE: In addition, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Club 201 will host a special concert and after-party for Madison’s young professionals on Friday, Oct. 17. Fun, friendship, networking and tastings are included. The post-concert party, located in nearby Promenade Lounge within Overture Center, will include hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and offer drink specials. All Club 201 guests will have the exclusive chance to mingle with Madison Symphony Orchestra musicians and fellow music lovers. The $35 ticket will include a discounted concert ticket (usually $63-$84), seating near other young professionals during the performance, and access to the post-concert party with food. Purchase tickets by this WEDNESDAY, OCT. 15, by calling (608) 257-3734 or at www.madisonsymphony.org/club201

Here is the email interview that Olga Kern, who won the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition when she was just 17, graciously granted to The Ear:

Olga Kern

How do you compare the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff – which you played to win the Van Cliburn gold medal — to its more popular counterparts such as the Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 and the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” which you also perform? What do you like about the work and what should listeners pay attention to?

The first concerto is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 1 piece. He re-edited it later in life, and in this composition you can hear the fresh approach immediately from the beginning of the first movement. And what an incredibly beautiful second movement it has. He gives the piano an opportunity to start the main melody, which sounds almost like an improvisation in a way.

It’s so unique, and at the same time you can hear Rachmaninoff’s special style as a composer in every note and bar. It’s his first composition and it gives incredible platform and base to his other orchestral works, especially to his piano concerti.

This concerto is similar in structure to his third concerto. It has also a long piano cadenza in the first movement, which is the dramatic point of the whole composition. Also, as in the third concerto, the finale of the last movement is challenging for both the pianist and the orchestra.  (You can hear Olga Kern perform Rachmaninoff’s fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto No. 3 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

This is why, I think, this concerto is not performed very often — because it’s not easy. But it’s really a great pleasure and excitement to perform this concerto. It’s such a wonderful jewel of Rachmaninoff’s music!

rachmaninoffyoung

You have performed in Madison several times, both solo recitals and concertos. Do you have anything to say about Madison audiences or the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

I love Madison — the city, the people, the concert hall, the audience, the orchestra and of course the Maestro, John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad). He is fantastic. I can’t wait to work with him again. It’s always great! I have wonderful friends here and I always come back to this great place with pleasure!

I like to work with the Madison Symphony Orchestra — they are so sensitive and responsive, and I always have a great and fun time at the rehearsals with them. In the end, at the concert time, the performances come off so beautifully that it is a joy and a great celebration of music!

John DeMain full face by Prasad

The Rachmaninoff piano concerto is part of an all-Russian program that also features music by Tchaikovsky (below top) and Shostakovich (below bottom). Are there certain qualities that you identify with Russian music and that explain the music’s appeal to the public?

Russian music is full of feeling and is very powerful emotionally. Russian people, even if they are happy, are always sad inside. And this explains why Russian music is so complicated with feelings -– it is in its nature — always a fight between sadness and happiness, between darkness and light, between good and bad. You feel it — whether you listen to it or you perform it.

All the composers who will be performed in this concert had very difficult, complicated lives. They went through so much, but at the same time they wanted to be happy. They were romantics in their souls, fighters in their hearts.

They wanted to make the world beautiful, no matter what, with their heavenly amazing music! This is why it’s always so exciting and so touching to listen and to perform their incredible works and compositions!

tchaikovsky

dmitri shostakovich

Since winning the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition in 2001, you have been very busy. What are your current recording projects and touring plans?

Yes, I am very busy, and of course very happy about it. I definitely have lots of exciting plans for the near future, but — if you don’t mind — I will keep it as a secret to keep many wonderful surprises soon for my wonderful fans and friends!

Please follow me on my website, www.olgakern.com, my official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/olgakern?fref=ts, Twitter: @kernolga1, and Instagram @kernolga. I will be posting all my exciting news and projects and share it with all of you there!

Is there more you would like to say or add?

I am looking forward very much to coming back to beautiful autumn season in Madison. It’s my favorite season there. Nature is gorgeous and, as always for me, very inspiring!


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