By Jacob Stockinger
Such an occasion and its artistic celebration assumes even greater importance now that we are on the verge of the Trump Era, which starts this coming Friday with the Inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump.
Once again The Ear looked for classical music to mark the occasion and the holiday. But the results he found were limited. Do we really need to hear Samuel Barber’s famous and sadly beautiful but overplayed “Adagio for Strings” again on this day?
So The Ear asks the same question he asked two years ago: Why hasn’t anyone written an opera about the pioneering civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 and would today be 88?
Here is a link to that more extended post that asks the same question:
If you know of such an opera, please let The Ear know in the COMMENT section.
And if there is classical music that you think is appropriate to mark the occasion, please leave word of it, with a YouTube link if possible.
By Jacob Stockinger
Sure, you know of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, and you hear their music performed and played often.
But what about Roy Harris, Peter Mennin, Elliott Carter, Walter Piston and William Schuman (below)? Or even the concert music of Leonard Bernstein? (You can hear Bernstein conducting one of his favorite works by William Schuman, the energetic “An American Festival Overture,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
You rarely hear their music.
And you rarely hear about them.
Why is that?
And how can it be fixed – if it should be fixed?
Here is Teachout’s take, which involves the focus of the programs at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival.
Read it and see what you think:
Then let us know.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear received the following note from Edgewood College faculty singer Kathleen Otterson and thought it worth passing along because of its timeliness and local interest:
I’d like to share a little information about the final Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society of Madison on this Friday, May 13.
I’m sorry that I don’t have a photo of pianist Jamie Schmidt and me together, but I’ve included a photo of myself and a collage of some of our printed programs (below) from over the years.
Here is our background:
Mezzo-soprano Kathleen Otterson and pianist Jamie Schmidt met while students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and gave their first collaborative concert in 1996 at UW-Oshkosh, where Otterson was a member of the voice faculty.
Kathleen Otterson (below) has been a member of the Edgewood College faculty since 1999, and Music Director at Christ Presbyterian Church since 2001.
Jamie Schmidt (below) has been touring all over the country, along with his wife and two young children, with “The Lion King,” which arrived in Madison on May 9 for a lengthy run at the Overture Center.
The two musicians will reunite to present the final Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, on Friday, May 13.
The program includes favorites from the years of their concertizing together: German Lieder, or art songs, by Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler; and American songs by Ned Rorem, Samuel Barber, Chris DeBlasio, Dominick Argento and others.
A very special part of the program is an excerpt from the song cycle “No Place, No Time,” composed by University Opera founder and UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Karlos Moser (below left, with his wife Melinda Moser), to texts of the Persian poet Rumi. Otterson and Schmidt commissioned this work from their teacher and mentor, which also features bassist, Ben Ferris.
The Friday Noon Musicales run from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium, 900 University Bay Drive, and are open to the public, FREE of charge.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following timely and important announcement:
The Festival Choir of Madison (below) and its new artistic director Sergei Pavlov – who teaches at Edgewood College — will close the current season with a special concert this Saturday night, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Christ Presbyterian Church, located at 944 East Gorham Street in downtown Madison.
The performance features one of the legendary American choral conductors, Maestro Joseph Flummerfelt (below right, with Sergei Pavlov). You can hear a long Q&A interview with Joseph Flummerfelt in the YouTube video at the bottom.
The program with the Festival Choir includes music by German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, British composer Herbert Howells, Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki and Scottish composer James MacMillan. Sorry, no word on individual works to be performed.
Tickets for the evening concert are available at the door and cost between $9 and $15.
Since 1971, Joseph Flummerfelt (below) has been responsible for most of the choral work of the New York Philharmonic, working closely with its music directors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert. Until 2004 he was Director of Choral Activities in the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
Joseph Flummerfelt (below) with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and New York Choral Artists has been featured in 45 recordings, including a Grammy Award-winning CD of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler with Leonard Bernstein. His collaboration with the great American composer Samuel Barber includes the Grammy Award-winning recording of Barber’s opera “Anthony and Cleopatra.”
In 2004 Flummerfelt was awarded a Grammy for the New York Choral Artists’ recording of “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning composition written by John Adams in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
A master teacher, Flummerfelt’s many former students occupy a number of major choral positions throughout the world. Yannick Nezet-Seguin (below) — the current music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, who, as a teenager, studied with Dr. Flummerfelt in two advanced conducting summer workshops — cites him as one of the two major influences in his life as a conductor. A 2009 New York Times article said, “Mr. Nezet-Seguin called those sessions with Flummerfelt the only significant conducting lessons he ever had.”
Flummerfelt has a special connection with Madison as well. As an undergraduate student in De Pauw University in Indiana, he was deeply inspired by a performance of a visiting choir, and the conductor of this group was Robert Fountain, the legendary Director of Choral Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
Also on Saturday, May 7 at 11 a.m. there will be a question/answer session for all who would like to meet the Maestro Flummerfelt. The host is Edgewood College, and the session will be at the Washburn Heritage Room in the Regina Building. This is a FREE event.
By Jacob Stockinger
There are many great violinists playing today. But arguably the most important and innovative is 36-year-old Hilary Hahn (below), the thoughtful virtuoso who returns to perform a MUST-HEAR recital in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater at 7:30 p.m. this coming Sunday night.
The last two recitals there by Hahn were two of the most memorable live chamber music performances The Ear has ever heard.
Tickets are $27.50 to $50.50. UW-Madison students are $10.
Here is a link to information about tickets, the program and audio samples:
During her 20-year career, Hahn – who often mixes the old and new both in live performances and on recordings — has consistently turned in astounding performances of the violin repertoire, including classics. Those works include concertos and sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Niccolo Paganini, Johannes Brahms, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Charles Ives, Jean Sibelius, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Samuel Barber, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein and others.
But she also frequently commissions and adds new works to the repertoire, including a concerto by Edgar Meyer and a Pulitzer Prize-winning concerto by Jennifer Higdon, who teaches composition at the Curtis Institute of music where Hahn studied. Plus, she is a talented and charming “postcard” blogger and interviewer.
Both sides of Hilary Hahn’s artistry – the classic and the contemporary — will be on display during her Madison recital. The very busy Hahn (below, in a photo by Peter Miller) recently agreed to do an email Q&A with The Ear:
You have long been known as an innovative artist. What are your new and upcoming projects, including recordings and commissions?
I’m in the middle of a 14-month-long artist residency at the Vienna Konzerthaus. It’s my first such experience, so I feel like a kid in a candy store, getting to try out ideas sequentially that I would otherwise have to stretch over several years.
I’m excited to include among my residency performing as soloist with five different orchestras in the same hall, as well as giving a recital there and developing local initiatives to bring the community and classical music even closer together. Next year, I will be in residence in Seattle and Lyon. It’s been fun seeing what residency activities I want to carry over and what I can add that is specific to each city.
As far as commissions go, over this season and next, I’m world-premiering and touring a significant new contribution to the solo violin repertoire, Six Partitas by Antón García Abril (below), written for me.
That is a meaningful project for me, because I sensed that Mr. García Abril would write a fantastic set of pieces if I could convince him to take on the assignment. He decided to do it and the music turned out to be more wonderful and inspiring to play than I could have imagined. It feels like those phrases breathe with me and the notes fit in my hands.
In addition, I am in the process of wrapping up the original trajectory of my project, In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores. After some concerts on this upcoming tour, as encores, my recital partner Cory Smythe and I will be giving world premieres of the Honorable Mentions from my Encores contest.
Finally, in the fall, the complete edition of the sheet music for all 27 original works will be published as a single edition, with my fingerings, bowings and performance notes.
Is there an underlying unity or purpose to your program of works by Mozart, Bach, García Abril, Copland and Davidson?
I hope the listeners will find their own versions of unity and purpose in the program. The pieces weren’t assembled randomly, but then again, everyone listens differently.
García Abril’s Six Partitas, of which I will play No. 1, entitled “Heart,” are solo polyphonic works. The violin alone carries multiple melodic lines, as well as providing its own harmonies. Johann Sebastian Bach (below top) wrote his polyphonic Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin in 1720. I felt it was important to carry forward this particular type of composition into the present day, so I commissioned Mr. García Abril (below bottom, in a photo by Julio Ficha) to create this set of works. (You can hear Hilary Hahn interview Anton Garcia Abril in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
His writing for violin is compelling, fluid, emotional, clever and expressively rich in a way that I felt needed to be explored further. Especially as this is the premiere tour of his Partita No. 1, I wanted to juxtapose the new work with one of Bach’s, namely the Third Sonata with its complex and multifaceted fugue.
As for the duo pieces on the program, the compositional styles — though they span 250 years — have a certain openness in common: the writing is not densely layered, leaving lots of room for imagination.
What about the works by Mozart and Copland?
Mozart’s set of sonatas for keyboard and violin is one of the most extensive for this instrumentation, and since I was a student, I’ve been adding at least one to my repertoire annually. It’s wonderful to explore such a prolific composer’s work over a long stretch of time. This particular sonata vacillates among stormy drama, lyricism and playfulness.
The piece by Aaron Copland (below) is gorgeous, revealing. In this sonata, Copland’s musical language is clearly recognizable, but the texture is more sparse than in his famous larger-ensemble works, making it boldly direct and engrossing to listen to.
And the music by Tina Davidson?
The work by Tina Davidson (below) follows on the tonality of the Copland, but the composer’s treatment of the music goes in an entirely different direction. “Blue Curve of the Earth” was written in Wyoming during an artist residency, and was inspired by a photo of the edge of the Earth from space. The music is dreamy yet dimensional, angular yet lush. “Blue Curve of the Earth” is from the Encores project.
What would you like the public to know about composers Antón García Abril and Tina Davidson and their violin music or music in general?
I like to picture where pieces were written; the surroundings can add another dimension to the music. Environment influences the creative process. The studio is the private stage. Antón works in a studio outside of Madrid that his son, the architect by the same name, designed for him. Tina is based out of a refashioned church in Pennsylvania, with vaulted ceilings and a garden.
Both write beautifully for voice. Since violin can be a lyrical instrument and is tonally varied, capable of both sustaining and articulating, the ability to write expressively for voice transfers to the violin. Also, I have the impression that both composers start from a strong conceptual point with their works. When I play their music, the big line is the first thing that jumps out at me; the myriad fine details support the gestures.
If you play an encore or two, will they be from the ones you commissioned a couple of years ago and won a Grammy for?
That’s the plan! I feel very close to those pieces. Great encores exist from previous centuries, too; I never rule out the classics.
Why did you commission 27 short encores?
I began to notice that new encore pieces were not being showcased as much as other types of contemporary works. Shorter pieces remain a crucial part of every violinist’s education and repertoire, and I believed that potential new favorites should be encouraged and performed as well.
How successful have they been with the public and with other artists?
The public embraced the project. The music contained within the Encores is varied and imaginative. Each composer had a different concept of what an encore can add to today’s musical landscape.
I think every listener can find at least one work that is particularly poignant. I want the audience to discover these pieces for themselves. It is thrilling to listen to music that you have never heard before and, uninfluenced by other people’s opinions, be free to feel your own response.
This project is something I’ve been working on for a long time; I would estimate that my direct involvement in all of the different parts will wind up having a 15-year arc. What I have learned on musical and creative levels from working with the composers will stay with me for my whole career, and the logistical lessons from organizing such a big project will influence my future work.
Most importantly, I hope the Encores themselves will continue in the active repertoire beyond my lifetime. That will be up to other performers, of course.
You have played here several times, both concertos and solo recitals. Is there anything you would like to say about performing in Madison and about Madison audiences?
I really enjoy Madison itself. It’s in a beautiful part of the country. I’ll never forget the first time I visited, in the winter, when the city was covered by snow and one of the sidewalks featured a table topped by a tower of knit hats and sweaters. As for the Madison audience, their curiosity and involvement are energizing.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
ALERT: Blog contributor and all-round musician — violist, conductor and singer as well as critic — Mikko Rankin Utevsky sends the following word:
Dear friends: I’m giving my senior viola recital this Sunday evening, April 10, the culmination of my four years of study here at the UW-Madison. On the program are a pair of powerful and evocative works from 1919: the Viola Sonata of Rebecca Clarke, and the Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch. Pianist Thomas Kasdorf joins me for the program, which is at 7 p.m. at Capitol Lakes, off the Capitol Square, at 333 West Main Street. I hope to see you there!
P.S.: Thomas and I are giving another recital – with me singing this time – on Tuesday, May 10, at 7 p.m., also at Capitol Lakes. On the program are assorted songs by Samuel Barber, Kurt Weill, Charles Ives, Robert Schumann, and Claude Debussy, and the “Songs of Travel” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. If you can’t make this one, see you in a month!
By Jacob Stockinger
Multi-media concerts seem to be catching on, perhaps in an attempt to attract new and younger audiences.
Next season the Madison Symphony Orchestra will do two of them: Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” with a hi-definition film made by NASA for the Houston Symphony Orchestra; and a Beyond the Score with “Scheherazade” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, accompanied by photographs plus actors Jim DeVita and Brenda DeVita from American Players Theatre in Spring Green.
Doing mutli-media is nothing new for the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which is always experimenting and looking for novel approaches to classical music. But the group is expanding how it is done in an impressively populist way.
Here is an announcement from The Ear’s friends at the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which turns 25 this summer:
Have you taken photos of your favorite time of year?
Visual artist Lisa A. Frank will be creating photographic scenery for this year’s “Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society” concerts at the Overture Center for the Arts.
The program on June 25 will include the “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. For this concert, a photo collage of the four seasons – like Frank’s spring image of bird eggs and feathers in a nest and the fall image of gourds – will be projected on a large screen behind the musicians.
(You can get a sense of it from the popular YouTube video at the bottom, which features the “Spring” section of the four string concertos that make up “The Four Seasons.)
Lisa Frank (below) invites amateur photographers of all ages to participate in this concert by sending up to 5 of your best shots depicting any aspect of any season.
The images can be in jpeg, tiff or Photoshop format. If your photograph is included, you may be asked to resend a higher resolution image. (Below is a summer photo of a flower and butterfly.)
All featured photographers will receive a video of the final result.
Up to 100 photos will be selected.
Send your photographs by Sunday, April 18 to:
And here is a link – with information about programs, performers, venues and tickets — to the new summer season of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which celebrates the group’s 25th anniversary or Silver Jubilee:
By Jacob Stockinger
There was so much to like about last Friday night’s concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), including a fantastic performance of the sublimely beautiful Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber.
The concerto, with its soaring melodies, poignant harmonies and spiky perpetual motion finale, was played superbly by Russian-born, London-based virtuoso Alexander Sitkovetsky (below), who received a masterful accompaniment from longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell and the WCO. (As an encore and change of pace, Sitkovetsky played the soulful Sarabande from the Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach.)
Here are two very positive reviews, written by John W. Barker for Isthmus and Greg Hettmansbeger for Madison Magazine, with which The Ear agrees:
But The Ear notes this: Perhaps the most touching moment came off-stage.
As you may have heard, last October Robin Fellows died of cancer at 66. For 26 years, he had been the principal flutist of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He also played and taught at many other places.
If you went to the indoor classical Masterworks concerts by the WCO, you heard him.
And if you went to the popular summertime Concerts on the Square, you heard him.
So it was right and fitting, as they say, for the WCO to dedicate the concert to Fellows (below). Indeed, the program seemed perfect in its homage.
We heard a new principal flutist and heard lots of prominent flute playing in works by Irish composer Joan Trumble, Swedish composer Lars-Eric Larsson and especially the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
But the most stirring tribute happened off-stage.
That is because the family gave out a FREE memorial tribute CD of 20th-century flute music – with singers, bassoonists, clarinet, harp and piano — that was played by Fellows, recorded and released in 2002.
It includes music by Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Albert Roussel, Ernst Toch, Daren Hagen (a UW-Madison alumnus) and Vincent Persichetti.
Out in the lobby of the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center was a table with not only the new season brochures for 2016-17, but also many stacks of FREE CDs. The audience was invited to take one by a current WCO flutist and oboist.
And as you entered and left the theater, there was a large poster with a picture of Fellows and a paragraph about his life and accomplishments.
The Ear is still sampling all the pieces on the CD.
So far, it is both enjoyable and enlightening. The Ear would include a sample, but unfortunately he doesn’t see that any tracks have been uploaded to YouTube.
Still, one cannot imagine Fellows — or any musicians, for that matter — wishing for a better tribute.
The Ear says: Kudos to the Fellows family and to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra for providing such memorable memorials.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear’s friends at Edgewood College write:
Edgewood College Professor Sergei Pavlov (below) is bringing his talent to a unique stage.
This special concert is at 7:30 p.m. on this coming Monday, Aug. 17, at the Orpheum Theater, 216 State Street, in Madison.
The concert is FREE to attend, but there will be a freewill offering in support of Porchlight.
Here is a link to the performers — some from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — the sponsors and the program that will include music by Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein.
Some of the performers in the People’s Chorus are homeless themselves.
“Music can be one of the ways to address challenges in society, and to hopefully make compassionate choices to meet those challenges,” Pavlov says. “Of course it is our way.”
The concert benefits Porchlight (below), a social services organization in Madison that seeks to decrease the homeless population by providing shelter, housing, supportive services and a sense of community in ways that empower residents and program participants to positively shape their lives.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Oakwood Chamber Players (below) has announced its new season for 2015-16. It has the theme of serious “Play.”
As usual, the eclectic programs feature well-known masterpieces but also neglected repertoire and new music. Notice that you don’t see anything by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorak, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and many other standard composers on this season. That is unusual — and most welcome!
All concerts take place on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in the Oakwood Village West auditorium (below) – now known as the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education — at 6201 Mineral Point Road, on Madison’s far west side.
For more information about the players, the programs, the group’s history and individual or season tickets, visit: http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com
Here is the press release:
“The Oakwood Chamber Players welcomes you to our 2015-16 season, which promised to be FUN! We often refer to our work in music as “play,” and this season we look forward to sharing the fun with you.
“Our concerts will stir memories of fun and games in the outdoors! Join us for musical performances that contemplate the beauty and pleasure of nature. This season will lift your spirits and please your ears. We love to play for you … now come play with us!
Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 p.m.
Amy Beach (below) – Pastorale and Caprice for flute, cello and piano
Ole Bull/Edvard Grieg – Dairy Maid’s Sunday for violin, viola and cello
Alec Wilder – Suite for clarinet, horn and piano
Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 at 1 and 3:30 p.m.
Annual Christmas Lights Concert
FAIRY TALES AND OTHER STORIES
Saturday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, at 1:30 p.m.
Malcolm Arnold (below) – Quintet for violin, viola, flute, horn and bassoon
Elisenda Fábregas – Voces de mi Tierra (Voices of My Land) for flute, cello and piano
Robert Schumann — Fairy Tales, Op. 132 for clarinet, viola and piano
Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday March 7, at 1:30 p.m.
Georges Bizet – Jeux d’Enfants for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn
Jack Gallagher – Ancient Evenings & Distant Music for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn
Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m.
Craig Bohmler – Six Pieces After Shakespeare for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bass