By Jacob Stockinger
Even as the school year winds down, there are several noteworthy events and concerts at the University of Wisconsin this weekend.
The Wind Ensemble is the premier wind/percussion ensemble in the UW-Madison School of Music. Repertoire varies from classical wind compositions to contemporary works.
The Wind Ensemble actively commissions new works from world-renowned composers, often performing with internationally acclaimed soloists and guest conductors.
Jacob Klingbeil will assist as graduate student guest conductor.
YOUniversity Band will be side-by-side with community musicians
The program includes:
Gvorkna Fanfare by Jack Stamp
Baron Cimetieres Mambo by Donald Grantham
Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Grainger
Starwars Trilogy, by John Williams/arr. Donald Hunsberger
At 1:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, a FREE Doctoral Recital: Russian Literature and the Music Salon. It is a multimedia concert with narration.
This doctoral project, organized by pianist Oxana Khramova, involves several students and faculty members from various departments.
It will be devoted to writers and composers who were connected to St. Petersburg in their lives and works: Nikolai V. Gogol, Anna A. Akhmatova, Joseph A. Brodsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke.
Listeners will experience their masterpieces through the prism of Russian music, language and visual images. By attempting to combine literature, music and art. participants hope to recreate the atmosphere of St. Petersburg’s culture (as recreated in the museum photo below).
Oxana Khramova, piano, DMA candidate, School of Music, where she is a student of Christopher Taylor
Yana Groves, piano, DMA candidate, School of Music
Nicole Heinen, soprano, MM candidate, School of Music
Ilona Sotnikova, visual images and literature, PhD candidate, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature
Conor Ryan, narrator, Undergraduate Student, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature
At 4 p.m., in Mills Hall, the All-University String Orchestra will give a FREE concert under the baton of director Janet Jensen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on the program.
From 4 to 6 p.m. the Wingra Woodwind Quintet will hold its 50th Anniversary Party at the University Club (below), 803 State St., next to the Humanities Building.
Embodying the Wisconsin Idea and serving as role models to our students, the Wingra Quintet has a rich tradition and will honor current and former members.
Former members who plan to attend are Robert Cole, flute, Marc Fink, oboe, Glenn Bowen, clarinet, Richard Lottridge, bassoon, Douglas Hill, horn, and Nancy Becknell, horn. (Below are photos from 1990 and 2010.)
A short program of 20 minutes is planned and then we will celebrate with hors d’oeuvres and beverages catered by the University Club. Everyone is invited to enjoy the food, music, and good company of current and former members of the Wingra Quintet.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn about the rich history of the WWQ here: http://www.music.wisc.edu/wingra-woodwind-quintet/
At 1 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Women’s Chorus (below) and University Chorus will give a FREE concert. Anna Volodarskaya and Sarah Guttenberg will conduct.
This event is FREE. Registration is encouraged, but not required.
No program has been announced.
By Jacob Stockinger
Yesterday — Friday, March 20, 2015 – brought us the first day of spring.
It also marked the centennial of the birth of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter (below).
Richter was such a complex and towering figure that it would take a book to really do justice to him and to his career.
With one exception that gets no mention.
Somehow that information seems particularly pertinent to The Ear, given the growing acceptance of LGBT people and of marriage equality.
Still, Wigler’s essay is an excellent read and includes a YouTube video – there are many, many YouTube videos of Richter, who had an immense repertoire, playing. This video is of a live performance by Richter in which he plays the last movement of the first piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.
You can hear the power and energy, the subtleties and excitement, to say nothing of the originality of interpretation, that Richter brought to music.
Enjoy it -– and tell us if you ever heard Richter live and what is your favorite performance by Sviatoslav Richter with a link to a YouTube video is possible.
By Jacob Stockinger
The 2015 Grammy winners were announced Sunday night in a live three-hour broadcast.
The list of winners and nominees can be a good guide to new listening.
Of course most of the Grammy attention went to pop, rock, rap, country and the big selling music genres.
But here are the winners for classical music, along with the nominees and competition.
One thing to note: Producer of the Year again went to freelancer Judith Sherman (below).
Sherman will be in Madison again inn May to record the last two centennial commissions for the University of Wisconsin-Madison‘s Pro Arte Quartet. (Below, she is seen recording the first four commissions with the Pro Arte in Mills Hall.) The new recording includes the terrific Clarinet Quintet based on Allen Ginsberg’s landmark Beat poem “Howl” by American composer Pierre Jalbert and Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3.
WINNER: Vaughan Williams (below): Dona Nobis Pacem; Symphony No. 4; The Lark Ascending. Michael Bishop, engineer; Michael Bishop, mastering engineer (Robert Spano, Norman Mackenzie, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus). Label: ASO Media
Adams, John: City Noir. Richard King, engineer; Wolfgang Schiefermair, mastering engineer (David Robertson & St. Louis Symphony); Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Dmitriy Lipay, engineer; Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Riccardo Muti Conducts Mason Bates & Anna Clyne. David Frost & Christopher Willis, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Label: CSO Resound
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
WINNER: Judith Sherman (below)
BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: Adams, John (below): City Noir. David Robertson, conductor (St. Louis Symphony). Label: Nonesuch
Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8; Janáček: Symphonic Suite From Jenůfa. Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). Label: Reference Recordings
Schumann: Symphonien 1-4. Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker). Label: Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings.
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7; Tapiola. Robert Spano, conductor (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). Label: ASO Media
BEST OPERA RECORDING
WINNER: Charpentier (below): La Descente D’Orphée Aux Enfers. Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Aaron Sheehan; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble; Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble). Label: CPO
Milhaud: L’Orestie D’Eschyle. Kenneth Kiesler, conductor; Dan Kempson, Jennifer Lane, Tamara Mumford, Sidney Outlaw, Lori Phillips & Brenda Rae; Tim Handley, producer (University Of Michigan Percussion Ensemble & University Of Michigan Symphony Orchestra; University Of Michigan Chamber Choir, University Of Michigan Orpheus Singers, University Of Michigan University Choir & UMS Choral Union). Label: Naxos
Rameau: Hippolyte Et Aricie. William Christie, conductor; Sarah Connolly, Stéphane Degout, Christiane Karg, Ed Lyon & Katherine Watson; Sébastien Chonion, producer (Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment; The Glyndebourne Chorus). Label: Opus Arte
Schönberg: Moses Und Aron. Sylvain Cambreling, conductor; Andreas Conrad & Franz Grundheber; Reinhard Oechsler, producer (SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden Und Freiburg; EuropaChorAkademie). Label: Hänssler Classic
Strauss: Elektra. Christian Thielemann, conductor; Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier, René Pape & Anne Schwanewilms; Arend Prohmann, producer (Staatskapelle Dresden; Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden). Label: Deutsche Grammophon
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
WINNER: The Sacred Spirit Of Russia. Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Bach: Matthäus-Passion. René Jacobs, conductor (Werner Güra & Johannes Weisser; Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin; Rias Kammerchor & Staats-Und Domchor Berlin). Label: Harmonia Mundi
Dyrud: Out Of Darkness. Vivianne Sydnes, conductor (Erlend Aagaard Nilsen & Geir Morten Øien; Sarah Head & Lars Sitter; Nidaros Cathedral Choir). Label: 2L (Lindberg Lyd).
Holst: First Choral Symphony; The Mystic Trumpeter. Andrew Davis, conductor; Stephen Jackson, chorus master (Susan Gritton; BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Symphony Chorus). Label: Chandos Records
Mozart: Requiem. John Butt, conductor (Matthew Brook, Rowan Hellier, Thomas Hobbs & Joanne Lunn; Dunedin Consort). Label: Linn Records
WINNER: In 27 Pieces – The Hilary Hahn Encores (below). Hilary Hahn & Cory Smythe. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dreams & Prayers. David Krakauer & A Far Cry. Label: Crier Records
Martinů: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1-3. Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen. Label: BIS
Partch: Castor & Pollux. Partch. Track from: Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Sing Thee Nowell. New York Polyphony. Label: BIS
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO
WINNER: Play. Jason Vieaux. Label: Azica Records
All The Things You Are. Leon Fleisher. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
The Carnegie Recital. Daniil Trifonov. Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Dutilleux: Tout Un Monde Lointain. Xavier Phillips; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony). Track from: Dutilleux: Symphony No. 1; Tout Un Monde Lointain; The Shadows Of Time. Label: Seattle Symphony Media
Toccatas. Jory Vinikour. Label: Sono Luminus
BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
WINNER: Douce France. Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bengt Forsberg, accompanist (Carl Bagge, Margareta Bengston, Mats Bergström, Per Ekdahl, Bengan Janson, Olle Linder & Antoine Tamestit). Label: Naïve
Porpora: Arias. Philippe Jaroussky; Andrea Marcon, conductor (Cecilia Bartoli; Venice Baroque Orchestra) Label: Erato
Schubert: Die Schöne Müllerin. Florian Boesch; Malcolm Martineau, accompanist. Label: Onyx
Stella Di Napoli. Joyce DiDonato; Riccardo Minasi, conductor (Chœur De L’Opéra National De Lyon; Orchestre De L’Opéra National De Lyon). Label: Erato/Warner Classics
Virtuoso Rossini Arias. Lawrence Brownlee; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra). Label: Delos
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
WINNER: Partch (below): Plectra & Percussion Dances. Partch; John Schneider, producer. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Britten To America. Jeffrey Skidmore, conductor; Colin Matthews, producer. Label: NMC Recordings
Mieczysław Weinberg. Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė, Daniil Grishin, Gidon Kremer, & Daniil Trifonov & Kremerata Baltica; Manfred Eicher, producer. Label: ECM New Series
Mike Marshall & The Turtle Island Quartet. Mike Marshall & Turtle Island Quartet; Mike Marshall, producer. Label: Adventure Music
The Solent – Fifty Years Of Music By Ralph Vaughan Williams. Paul Daniel, conductor; Andrew Walton, producer. Label: Albion Records
BEST CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL COMPOSITION
WINNER: Adams, John Luther (below): Become Ocean. John Luther Adams, composer (Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony). Label: Cantaloupe Music
Clyne, Anna: Prince Of Clouds. Anna Clyne, composer (Jaime Laredo, Jennifer Koh, Vinay Parameswaran & Curtis 20/21 Ensemble). Track from: Two X Four. Label: Cedille Records
Crumb, George: Voices From The Heartland. George Crumb, composer (Ann Crumb, Patrick Mason, James Freeman & Orchestra 2001). Track from: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 16. Label: Bridge Records, Inc.
Paulus, Stephen: Concerto For Two Trumpets & Band. Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Berlin, Richard Kelley, James Patrick Miller & UMASS Wind Ensemble). Track from: Fantastique – Premieres For Trumpet & Wind Ensemble. Label: MSR Classics
Sierra, Roberto: Sinfonía No. 4. Roberto Sierra, composer (Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony). Track from: Sierra: Sinfonía No. 4; Fandangos; Carnaval. Label: Naxos
ALERT: Sad news has reached The Ear. Samuel M. Jones, a bass-baritone who was an exceptional performer and teacher at the UW-Madison School of Music for 37 years and who also served as the cantor at Temple Beth El and the Choral Director at Grace Episcopal Church, has died at 87. Here is a link to the obituary in the Wisconsin State Journal:
By Jacob Stockinger
On Friday night, The Ear couldn’t be in two places at once.
Being in the mood for some solo piano playing – because The Ear himself is an avid amateur pianist – he attended the solo recital of works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, William Bolcom and Johannes Brahms performed by UW-Madison School of Music professor Christopher Taylor. But more about that will come in another post this week.
However, Larry Wells — a college classmate and good friend who is a longtime and very knowledgeable classical music follower and who has worked, lived and attended concerts in Rochester, San Francisco, Moscow, Tokyo and Seoul — went to the concert Friday night by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center.
He filed this review:
By Larry Wells
The program opened with a short introduction by Maestro Andrew Sewell, the longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, to the “English Suite” for string orchestra by the contemporary British composer Paul Lewis. (Sewell himself is a New Zealand native who also trained in England.)
Although the work was termed by Sewell as an obligatory form for British composers in the manner of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and the like, I found the rhapsodic opening and closing of the second section, “Meditation,” reminiscent of VW’s “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.” But the remainder of the piece seemed trite and forgettable.
Following was the Concerto No. 1 in D Minor for keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In this case, a concert grand piano was used featuring soloist Ilya Yakushev, a Russian native who now lives in the U.S., who was making his second appearance with the WCO.
This familiar piece was played bouncily in the first movement, sweetly in the second, and really fast in the third. I enjoyed Yakushev’s playing, although from my seat the piano seemed slightly muffled and occasionally unheard over the orchestra.
The second half of the evening opened with the Chamber Symphony No. 2 by Arnold Schoenberg, which Maestro Sewell claimed to be in the manner of Richard Strauss. If so, Strauss was much more expressive and engaging.
The evening ended with the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Felix Mendelssohn, again featuring Yakushev. I was unfamiliar with the piece, and found it immediately engaging and enjoyable throughout. (You can hear Ilya Yakushev perform the Mendelssohn piano concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Altogether, it was a good evening of music.
But it was unfortunately marred early in the aforementioned “Meditation” movement when a woman two seats down from me decided to answer a text. The bright light from her cell phone was distracting, so I pointedly stared at her until her seat mate nudged her, and she put away the phone. The seat mate clearly felt that I was in the wrong and glared at me.
I noticed that there is no caution in the program about turning off cell phones, so I believe it would be a good idea for a brief announcement to be made at the beginning of the concert and at the end of the intermission for people to turn off their phones. That simple courtesy has still not become a part of all concertgoers’ routines.
And what is with the Madison tradition of giving everything a standing ovation? (Below is a standing ovation at a concert on the Playhouse by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.)
There have been perhaps a dozen times in my long concert-going life when I have been so moved by the moment that I’ve leapt to my feet. I think of a standing ovation as recognition of something extraordinary — not as a routine gesture that cheapens to the point of meaninglessness.
For purposes of comparison, here is a link to the review of the same concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and pianist Ilya Yakushev that veteran local music critic and retired UW-Madison medieval history professor John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:
By Jacob Stockinger
Our good friend Trevor Stephenson — who is usually an eloquent and humorous advocate of early music as a keyboardist who founded and directs the Madison Bach Musicians — will be offering a class at his home-studio about the piano music of the early 20th-century French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy (below).
The class will take on four Monday evenings: January 26, February 2, 16 and 23 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Those who know Trevor Stephenson (below top) know that he is an articulate and witty explainer, a fine teacher who can reach listeners on all levels. And he will use a 19th-century piano that is close to the kind the Debussy himself used (below bottom).
. Debussy’s life and musical influences
. Construction and tonal qualities of the 19th-century piano
. Modes, whole-tone scales, harmonic language, tonality
. Touch, pedaling, sonority
. Fingering approaches
. Programmatic titling, extra-musical influences, poetry and art
. Two Arabesques, Reverie and Estampes (or “Prints,” heard at the bottom in a YouTube video of a live performance by the magical and great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter in 1977 in Salzburg, Austria.)
The course is geared for those with a reading knowledge of music.
Enrollment for the course is $150.
Please register by January 20, 2015 if you’d like to attend. Email is: email@example.com
By Jacob Stockinger
Well, this isn’t really holiday music.
It is gentle and lyrical, and quite lovely — even wistful.
He wrote it for and dedicated it to his son Maxim -– who has since become a famous conductor -– for his 19th birthday.
And, if I recall correctly, Maxim performed it when he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory.
ALERT: Just a reminder that tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 13, at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, on the UW-Madison campus in the George Mosse Humanities Building at 455 North Park Street.
The Youth Orchestra (below) and the Harp Ensemble of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform.
The orchestra’s program includes The Roman Carnival Overture by the French composer Hector Berlioz; three excerpts from Act 3 of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” by the German Opera composer Richard Wagner; and the first, third and fourth movements from the Symphony No. 1 in D Minor by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The Harp Ensemble will perform the traditional tune “Be Thou My Vision” as well as “Grandjany, Eleanor and Marcia”; and a medley of music by the Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini.
Call the WYSO office at (608) 263-3320 for up-to-date concert and ticket information. Or visit http://wyso.music.wisc.edu
Tickets are $10 for adult, $5 for young people 18 and under; and they are available at the door 45 minutes prior to each concert.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is officially the last day of classes for the first semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The next two weeks are devoted to a study period and to final papers and exams.
That means classes are also ending at a lot of other public and private universities and colleges around the nation, The Ear suspects. And elementary schools, middle schools and high schools will not be far behind.
So it is a timely time to post the results of research that shows that classical music -– not just any music, but specifically classical music, which lowers rather raises blood pressure –- can help students study and prepare for final exams.
Apparently, the secret is that it has to do with the embedded structure of the music itself.
The researchers, which range from the cancer center at Duke University and the University of San Diego to the University of Toronto, even mention some specific composers and musical genres or forms that exhibit that sense of structure in outstanding ways.
The composers cited include such Old Masters as Johann Sebastian Bach (below top), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below middle) and Johannes Brahms (below bottom). Richard Strauss and George Frideric Handel also were mentioned. Surprisingly, no mention was made of music by Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Joseph Haydn or Franz Schubert.
But students should avoid loud and more scattered music, the research suggests. No “1812 Overture,” complete with cannons, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky! Such music is actually disrupting and counterproductive.
Maybe that same sense of structure and regularity — especially noticeable in Baroque music as well as the Classical period and early Romantic music — also explains why those composers have appealed to so many people for so long.
It may also explain why student who study music and go through formal music education often go on to high achievement in other fields.
And the preferred forms include solo music, including the piano and the lute, and string quartets. That makes sense to me since they are more intimate and less overwhelming forms. Solo French piano by Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré and Francis Poulenc come in for special mention. (I would also add the 550 sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti.)
The Ear suspects that what works for final exams also works for other studying and homework in general and other intensive intellectual tasks.
And maybe what is good for college students is also good for high school or even middle school or elementary school students.
I do have some questions: Did the researchers take the conflicting evidence about multi-taking into account? But I assume they probably gave that some thought. Still, you have to wonder.
Here is a link to the story:
Do you have favorite music to study by? (One of my favorites is the Waltz in C-Sharo minor by Frederic Chopin as played with great discernible structure, repetition and variation — listen to inner voices — as well as incredible color and nuance by Yuja Wang in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)
Favorite composers, favorite kinds and favorite pieces?
The Ear wants to hear.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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!
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!
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!
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!
By Jacob Stockinger
The Festival Choir of Madison has announced its concerts for 2014-15 — its 40th anniversary season of three one-performance programs — that include a variety of music, from rarely heard Tchaikovsky vespers to choral music by Aaron Copland, and an entire concert that highlights living Wisconsin composers.
Here is a press release:
“Pre-concert lectures by the group’s Artistic Director Bryson Mortensen (below), who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County, will be on Saturday evenings at 6:30 p.m., with concerts beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“Season tickets can be purchased at http://festivalchoirmadison.org/Season1415/tickets.htm or by calling (608) 274-7089.
“Season ticket prices are: General, $40; Senior, $32; Student, $25. No word yet on single tickets or when they will be available.
“1. All-Night Vigil: Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky on Saturday, November 1, 2014
Written nearly 35 years before the more popular Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky (below) set the text of the All-Night Vigil to ensure that church music in Russia retained a uniquely Russian flavor. The work, containing settings from three “overnight” canonical hours (Vespers, Matins, and First Hour), is a sublime representation of Russian church music that inspired other Russian composers in the previously untouched genre of religious music. With the uniquely shifting harmonies and meditative melodies, this a capella work will be particularly suited to the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s chapel. (You can hear some of Tchaikovsky’s a cappella choral music in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
“2. Wisconsin Sings! on Saturday, March 7, 2015
The traditional of vocal and choral music is strong throughout Wisconsin, from the Appleton Boy Choir, to the Milwaukee Choral Artists, to the Festival Choir of Madison. Wisconsin is also home to many internationally recognized choral composers, and this concert celebrates the best of them. We will be singing works by composers such as Blake Henson (below 1) who teaches at the St. Norbert College; Eric William Barnum (below 2), Zach Moore (below 3), Jerry Hui (below 4), who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout; and Andrew Steffen.
“3. Aaron Copland: 25 Years on Saturday, May 2, 2015
2015 marks the 25th year since Aaron Copland’s death, and is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate his significant contribution to choral music. Instrumental in forging a distinctly American style, the compositions of Aaron Copland (below) are perfect to celebrate the beginning of summer. This concert will include performances of “In the Beginning” and his “Four Motets” as well as selections from Irving Fine’s choral arrangement of the Old American Songs.
“For more information, call (608) 274-7089 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”
By Jacob Stockinger
Con Vivo! … music with life, concludes its 12th season of chamber music with a concert entitled “Eastern Block Party” on Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, across from Camp Randall.
The program includes the Serenade for violin, viola, cello and two clarinets by Bohuslav Martinu (below top), the Polonaise No. 1 in D Major for violin and piano by Henryk Wieniawski (below middle), and Spiegel im Spiegel for clarinet and piano by Arvo Pärt (below bottom in a YouTube video that features the viola rater than the clarinet).
The performance will also feature the outstanding church organ with the Prelude in G Major by Friedrich Constantin Homilius. To conclude the evening’s offering, con vivo! will perform the Piano Quintet for two violins, viola, cello and piano by Dimitri Shostakovich (below).
Audience members are invited to join Con Vivo! musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss this chamber music literature and to hear about their Carnegie Hall debut this past December.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.
Artistic Director Robert Taylor, talking about the concert, said: “As is our tradition, con vivo!’s post Carnegie Hall debut season brings to our audience works that are familiar and some that are new. We’ve been honored as the “Best Classical Concert of 2013” by reviewer John W. Barker (below). With this concert, we aim to continue that trend.”
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.