The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here is a love story, Steinway-style, that benefits UW-Madison students

March 28, 2017
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Take a Steinway vintage Model M baby grand piano from 1927.

Add in the love of music as well as the love between a husband-father and wife, and then between a mother and daughter (below, on the left is mother Julia Monteros Wooster and on the right is daughter Mariah Wooster-Lehman).

Finish it off with some rebuilding and repairing, and the desire to make a generous gift to a university under siege from budget cuts dictated by an anti-intellectual governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican state legislature.

What you end up with is a love story, Steinway-style, that took place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. (And this piano is already in use in a practice room, 1268, of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building.)

It doesn’t need much introduction. The photos and the words, simple but eloquent and moving, written by the daughter, do the work.

The only thing to add is that The Ear recalls reading a new story that owning pianos in the home has become less popular nationwide. A lot of pianos even get junked or thrown out in the garbage, let alone neglected until they fall into disrepair and can’t be used any more.

So maybe there are more such pianos, with or without the love story, out there to benefit students and staff at the UW-Madison.

If so, leave a message in the COMMENTS section or call (608) 263-5615.

Here is a link to the story:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/love-story-steinway-piano/

Enjoy!


Classical music: Four major retirements this spring could put the UW-Madison School of Music in a staffing bind and could further hurt the standing of the university

December 19, 2016
11 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Merry Christmas!

NOT.

Happy New Year!

NOT.

Just as the first semester is coming to an end, The Ear has learned that four major retirements in the spring will put the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music staffing and teaching in a bind that poses some major challenges.

Three of the retirements are by major performers. The fourth is by a major scholar, a musicologist and music historian.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • John Aley (below), professor of trumpet. Aley, who has a national and international reputation and who once played with the American Brass Quintet, is also the principal trumpet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and plays in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. He plans to continue to reside in Madison and to continue his MSO duties one season at a time.

For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/john-aley/

john aley color

  • Lawrence Earp (below), professor of musicology. Since 1984, Earp, a trained bassoonist, has taught courses about and researched music and composers across the entire history of Western classical music.

For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/lawrence-earp/

Faculty

Faculty

  • Stephanie Jutt (below), professor of flute. Jutt, who is principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, also is co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.

Jutt plans to move to her native New York City to live, but says she will continue her duties with the MSO and the BDDS.

For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/stephanie-jutt/

Stephanie Jutt CR Dick Ainsworth

  • James Smith (below), professor of conducting, who has led the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, the UW Chamber Orchestra and is the music director of the University Opera. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement as the longtime music director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

Smith, a one-time professional clarinetist, plans to move into a new house he has built in Cross Plains where he will work on his repertoire and pursue stints as a freelance guest conductor.

For more information, go to: http://www.music.wisc.edu/faculty/james-smith/

UW Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor

All four have served the UW-Madison and area music-lovers well indeed and for a long time.

The bind for the music school is that, thanks to the boa constrictor-like choke hold on the UW-Madison’s budget and staffing by Gov. Scott Walker and his anti-intellectual, anti-education cronies in the Legislature and on the Board of Regents, tenured faculty do not usually get replaced by tenure-track positions. Instead the school has had to offer most new teachers non-renewable three-year stints as adjunct professors.

True, there is a long of talented people out there looking for jobs. So adjuncts are not necessarily inferior performers or teachers. But who wants to be moving around every few years and starting over?

As far as The Ear understands it, in the long-term the move to adjuncts is not good for the students, especially graduate students, for other faculty members and for the reputation of the School of Music, which has managed to secure major funding support for construction and physical plant projects but much less support for staff and scholarships.

Clearly, it introduces an element of instability and insecurity that hardly seems helpful in the competitive academic market place.

In any case, The Ear congratulates all the retirees on their distinguished careers and thanks them for so many years of public service and so many enjoyable hours of performing  and understanding great music. They will be missed.

Feel free to leave your own comments and reactions in the COMMENT section.

No doubt the future retirees would like to hear from you.

And The Ear too wants to hear.


Classical music: Let us now praise Kato Perlman and other donors and sponsors whose generosity supports classical music at the UW-Madison and elsewhere

April 7, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

In yesterday’s blog about afternoon concerts this weekend, The Ear mentioned the FREE concert by the Perlman Piano Trio this Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall.

The all-masterpiece program is an appealing one: The late Piano Trio in E-flat Major, K. 542, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, by Robert Schumann; and the Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101, by Johannes Brahms.

Members of the graduate student ensemble (below, from left, in a photo by Katherine Esposito) are: violinist Adam Dorn; pianist SeungWha Baek; and cellist Micah Cheng.

Additional members for the Schumann Piano Quintet are violinist Keisuke Yamamoto and violist Luke Carmichael Valmadrid.

Perlman Piano Trio 2016

But the concert by the Perlman Trio is also an occasion to recognize an important donor to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Her name is Kato (Katherine) Perlman. The Ear knows her as a congenial, amiable and modest person.

Perlman’s generosity has made possible this scholarship trio for distinguished graduate students. Its membership usually changes every school year.

Perlman (below), a retired chemist, has also contributed to other events and programs at the UW-Madison and to other music events around town.

Kato_Perlman

Now, Perlman is not alone. There are many important donors and patrons and underwriters of musical events in Madison.

One of the most distinguished and largest recent gifts was the late Karen Bishop, whose gift of $500,000 made possible hiring a new director of University Opera outside the punitive budget cuts by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature.

Another is Irving Shain(below), the retired chemistry professor and Chancellor of the UW-Madison, who decades ago started the ongoing Beethoven Sonata Competition and who also underwrites the wind and piano duet competition.

Irving Shain

Kato Perlman has an interesting, compelling and moving personal history, and the upcoming concert in Saturday is a good occasion to share it.

Here it is:

http://www.supportuw.org/stories/feature/perlman-gifts-span-campus/

These are challenging times for classical music. Those of us who appreciate it should be especially grateful to Perlman and other sponsors and donors for allowing it to exist for our pleasure and enlightenment.

So The Ear says:

Thank you, Kato.

Thank you, Irv.

Thank you, Karen Bishop and family.

And thank you to all donors and sponsors – individuals, groups, corporations and businesses — including those whose philanthropy supports the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Madison Early Music Festival, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and so many of the wonderful music groups in the areas.

You were never needed more.

In their honor, here in a YouTube video is a song of dedication, “Widmung,” composed by Robert Schumann and sung by baritone Thomas Quasthoff:


Classical music: Collaborative pianist and UW-Madison professor Martha Fischer is The Ear’s “Musician of the Year” for 2015

December 31, 2015
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

There is now so much outstanding classical music in the Madison area that it is hard to single out one performer or even one group as the Musician of the Year.

So this year The Ear was wondering how to honor all the musicians who generally go nameless but perform so well — all those string, brass, wind and percussion players and all those singers –- and not just the higher-profile conductors or soloists.

Then he was sitting at the astounding debut recital by Soh-Hyun Park Altino, the new violin professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, given the night of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Her partner was faculty pianist Martha Fischer.

And then is when The Ear decided that the Musician of the Year for 2015 should be Martha Fischer (below).

Martha Fischer color Katrin Talbot

I’d say “accompanist,” but we really don’t call them accompanists any more. The better term, and the more accurate term, is collaborative pianist.

And if you heard Martha Fischer play the thorny piano parts of the violin sonatas by Charles Ives and Johannes Brahms, you know you heard amazing artistry. (Park Altino also played a solo work by Johann Sebastian Bach.)

Here is the rave review by The Ear:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/classical-music-if-a-perfect-debut-concert-exists-new-uw-madison-faculty-violinist-soh-hyun-park-altino-gave-it-last-friday-night/

Now, The Ear has to disclose that he knows Martha Fischer and is a friend of hers as well as of her husband Bill Lutes.

But none of that takes away from Fischer’s many accomplishments, which too often fly under the radar and go uncredited.

Indeed, by honoring her, The Ear also hopes to draw attention to and to honor the many mostly anonymous ensemble and chamber players, including those in the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below top in a photo by Greg Anderson), the Middleton Community Orchestra, the Madison Opera Chorus and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra as well as the UW Symphony Orchestra, the Edgewood College orchestras and choirs, the UW Chamber Orchestra and the UW Choral Union (below bottom) and other UW choirs.

Too often, the members of those groups and so many others — such as the Ancora and Rhapsodie String Quartets, the Oakwood Chamber Players and the Willy Street Chamber Players, the Madison Choral Project, the Festival Choir and the Wisconsin Chamber Choir — pass unnoticed or under-noticed, much like Fischer. But like her, they deserve attention and respect.

Because they too are collaborators.

They serve the music. The music does not serve them.

And the truth is that most music-making is collaborative -– not solo performing.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Choral Union Joel Rathmann, Emi Chen

In addition, Fischer is also the model of the kind of academic that Gov. Scott Walker and the go-along Republican Legislators don’t seem to recognize or appreciate. They prefer instead to scapegoat and stigmatize public workers, and to hobble the University of Wisconsin with budget cuts and so-called reforms.

Remember that old saying: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach? It’s nonsense, especially in this case.

Martha Fischer is someone who both teaches and performs. She also participates in faculty governance and heads up the committee searching for a new opera director. When The Ear asked her for an update on the search, she provided records with complete transparency up to the limits of the law. Our corrupt, secretive and self-serving state government leaders should be so honest and so open.

Fischer is a first-rate collaborator who performs and records regularly with other faculty instrumentalists and singers. They include UW trombonist Mark Hetzler, trumpeter John Aley and singers baritone Paul Rowe and soprano Julia Faulkner, who has since moved on to the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

A model of the Wisconsin Idea in action, Fischer also serves as a juror for piano competitions, gives talks around the state and helps recruit talented students.

As a researcher, Fischer – who trained at the Julliard School, Oberlin College and the New England Conservatory of Music — traveled to England and interviewed famous collaborative pianists about playing Schubert’s art songs.

By all accounts, Fischer is a phenomenal teacher of both undergraduate and graduate students. The Ear has heard her students in concerto and solo recital performances, and was impressed. He also talked to her students and heard nothing but praise for her teaching.

He has heard Fisher herself sing, from Schubert lieder to Gilbert and Sullivan songs. She does that amazingly well too.

Fisher is one of the co-founders, co-organizers and main performers of the UW’s Schubertiades (below). The third annual Schubertiade is on Saturday, January 30, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. Go there and you can hear her sing and play piano duets and other chamber music. It is always one of the outstanding concerts of the year.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

Well, The Ear could go on and on. The personable but thoroughly professional Martha Fischer works so hard that there are plenty of reasons to honor her.

So, for all the times her playing and other talents have escaped attention, The Ear offers a simple but heartfelt Thank You to the Musician of the Year for 2015.

Please feel free to leave your thanks and remarks in the COMMENTS section.

If you want to hear Martha Fischer in action, here is a link to the SoundCloud posting of her playing the Brahms Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100, for Violin and Piano with violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino:

https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom

Then listen to the delicacy, balance and subtleties, of Fischer’s playing in this YouTube video of a lovely Romance for Trumpet and Piano:


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music ranks in the nation’s Top 30 overall and in the Top 10 for music education. Plus, WYSO’s Youth Orchestra and Concerto Competition winners perform Beethoven, Schubert, Walter Piston and Alexander Arutiunian on this Saturday afternoon.

March 27, 2015
5 Comments

ALERT: Just a reminder that this Saturday afternoon, the top-ranked Youth Orchestra (below) of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will perform under conductor James Smith at 1:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street.

The program includes: The Suite from “The Incredible Flutist” by Walter Piston; and the first and second movements of the Symphony No. 8  “Unfinished” by Franz Schubert.

Also included are the winners of the WYSO Concerto Competition. Trumpeter Noah Mennenga will perform the Trumpet Concert by  Alexander Arutiunian. Pianist Theodore Lau will play the third movement of the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, O;. 37, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for young people 3-18. For more information, call (608) 263-3320 or visit http://wyso.music.wisc.edu/dianne-endres-ballweg-winterfest-concert-series/

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Spring Break starts tomorrow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

So The Ear wants students and faculty to leave on a positive note and then return with renewed energy and dedication, knowing that the UW-Madison School of Music  still ranks relatively high (No. 24) among the nation’s top 30 public and private schools for overall programs and even higher (No. 10) for music education in an informal blog survey.

UW logos

To be sure, the UW-Madison School of Music is facing a lot of complex challenges.

Those challenges range from finding enough scholarship money to compete in recruiting outstanding students to finding enough money to recruit and retain outstanding faculty.

And some of the challenges look to be made worse through budget cuts and policy changes proposed by the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker (below), though we will have to wait to see the final outcomes.

Scott Walker 1

But the politicians sure are sending out signals that they want to treat the world-class university more like a trade school than a star player in the liberal arts, the arts and the humanities. They just don’t see those fields as adding much to economic development.

As if economic development is the bottom line for everything of personal and social value.

And as if the so-called STEM subjects -– science, technology, engineering and math – are the only relevant academic fields for the public to support.

Besides, study after study shows the relevance of music education to success in other fields. (Below are the UW Symphony Orchestra and UW Choral Union.)

Missa Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra

So before anyone starts fooling around and making major changes and cuts, it is good to be reminded of what a precious educational, cultural and economic resource the UW-Madison remains, as a world-class learning institution.

But it won’t take much negligence or wrong-headed tinkering for the UW to drop out of the ranking.

So here they are to read and then think about how to best protect the great university that the state of Wisconsin has.

First comes the overall ranking (No. 24) among private and public Schools of Music, which, if The Ear recalls correctly, has dropped over the past decade:

http://www.uscollegeranking.org/music/2014-best-americas-top-music-schools-and-colleges-ranking.html#axzz3UH2L2vW3

And then comes the ranking (No. 10) in the specific area of music education in a less prestigious blog poll done by an individual:

http://musicschoolcentral.com/top-10-colleges-music-education-majors-us/

Thoughts, anyone?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music education: The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music unveils plans for its impressive new music center with performance hall and rehearsal space.

September 29, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Gradually the old sign will turn into a new building.

UW new music hall sign

In case you missed it – and it was easy to do with all the live events going on this weekend – the University of Wisconsin School of Music announced the long-awaited plans for its new music center with a concert hall and rehearsal space. The Ear is very pleased that acoustics are given a top priority.

Compromises have been made due to funding delays and shortfalls. But even with the scaled-down design, the $22-million building still sounds as if it will be an impressive building, and an impressive addition to the UW-Madison School of Music program.

Here is an architect’s rendering, a drawing of what the building at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue, next to the new wing of the Chazen Museum of Art, will look like.

UW School of Music drawing

It should help maintain or even foster the already high standards of the UW-Madison School of Music, which is nonetheless facing major challenges in student recruitment and staffing. But one wonders: What will music students think about the glass-walled room that will allow passers-by to peer in while they are practicing?

For the full story, including what happens when more money is collected, here is a link to the official announcement.

http://www.news.wisc.edu/23154

And here is a link to a story in The Wisconsin State Journal

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/uw-unveils-ambitious-music-school-plans/article_36286cea-7fc2-5e5e-b56c-883881f8adc3.html

Be sure to tell The Ear — and everyone else, including UW-Madison officials and the cheapskate State of Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Scott Walker –- what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: On Labor Day, let us celebrate the hard work and cooperation it takes to make and deliver art by listening to the finale of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony and by thinking of all the different kinds of people and occupations that bring us music. What music do you think best marks Labor Day? Plus, the Karp Family perform its 36th FREE annual Labor Day Concert tonight at 7:30 at the UW.

September 2, 2013
13 Comments

REMINDER: Don’t forget that tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is the 36th annual FREE Karp Family Labor Day concert. Usually the best attended concert of the UW School of Music season, the MUST-HEAR event will this year feature three generations of Karps performing music by George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, John Harbison and Felix Mendelssohn with reading of texts by Shakespeare. For more information, including program notes by Howard Karp,  and details here is a link to a story I posted on Friday:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/classical-music-the-new-fall-season-begins-on-monday-night-with-the-36th-annual-free-labor-day-concert-by-the-karp-family-it-features-three-generations-performing-music-of-handel-beethoven-john-ha/

karps 2008 - 13

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s Labor Day again.

As fans of this blog know from past years, I like to use the occasion to celebrate the hard work that goes into making art – all art, but specifically classical music. The work may seem easy or invisible, but it isn’t.

That means I am talking about not only the composers and the performers – but also the countless people behind the scenes. That means the teachers, the editors and publishers, the stage directors and managers, the lighting people, the sound engineers, the publicists, the administrators, and in opera, the people who design and create sets and costumes, the carpenters and electricians, and so many more.

It means everyone who can claim some credit for music and indeed all the performing arts.

Each year, I also like to ask what piece of music best celebrates Labor Day? You can check past years to see previous choices that have included Aaron Copland (below top) and his “Fanfare for the Common Man”; Frederic Rzewski (below middle) and his mammoth set of piano variations on “The People United Can Never Be Defeated” played by Marc-Andre Hamelin; and Giuseppe Verdi (below bottom), whose “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” seems more and more appropriate, given the widening wealth gap and low wages in this country.

aaron copland

Frederic Rzewski mug

Verdi 2

But this year I thought I would take the wise advice of an old friend and a loyal reader and features the final movement of the Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, the “Farewell” Symphony by Franz Josef Haydn.

The story, as you may recall, goes that Prince Esterhazy, Haydn’s employer and patron, had kept his palace orchestra in residence for longer than usual and that the musicians wanted to head back to their families in Vienna and elsewhere. (Below is the Esterhazy estate, which you can still visit and where you can still hear concerts.)

WYSO Tour Esterhazy Palace FRASER

So the celebrated Papa Haydn (below) came to the rescue and took up their cause by incorporating it aurally and visually into the “Farewell” Symphony, which has since become of his most beloved and perhaps the mostly frequently performed on his more than 100 symphonies.

During the final movement (in a YouTube video at the bottom), the various instrumentalists get up and leave as the music proceeds until, at the end, there is only one or two violinists are left. They then rise and sometimes leave, allowing their silence to speak loudly.

Haydn

The prince got the message and let the musicians return home.

Talk about solidarity! The famous composer and the nameless musicians helped each other. Too bad our current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and so many other radically conservative Republicans who want to see a race to the bottom a la Mississippi can’t understand the importance and merits of cooperation and of working together instead of against each other.

Anyway, here is the finale movement, offered here in the recognition and memory of so much hard work in music and the performing arts and in the hope of future cooperation and union solidarity against the selfish big money interests that now increasingly run our government and dictate our lives:


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