The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Carl St. Clair and trumpet virtuoso Tina Thing Helseth, performs music by Beethoven, Hummel and Richard Strauss

March 8, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) features Tine Thing Helseth (below), the Norwegian virtuoso trumpet soloist, for a special performance of Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto.

Conductor Carl St. Clair (below) returns for a third visit as guest conductor with the MSO to lead a pair of early 19th-century works with 112 musicians performing the largest of Richard Strauss’s symphonic tone poems. (MSO music director and conductor John DeMain is conducting a production of Puccini’s opera “Turandot” in Virginia.)

The program begins with the Egmont Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven, followed by the MSO’s premiere performance of the Trumpet Concerto by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, featuring HelsethThe concert ends with a nod to the awesome splendor of the Bavarian Alps, “An Alpine Symphony,” by Richard Strauss.

The concerts are this weekend on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, 201 State Street. See below for ticket information.

Beethoven (below top) composed his Egmont Overture in 1810. Both Beethoven himself, and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (below bottom) upheld the ideals of human dignity and freedom in their works.

Their personal relationship stemmed from Beethoven’s incidental music for a new production of Goethe’s play Egmont in 1810. This play about a nobleman’s betrayal by the Spanish monarchy, is beautifully paired with Beethoven’s music. As Goethe called it, Egmont Overture is a “Symphony of Victory.” (You can hear the dramatic “Egmont” Overture, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Another friend of Beethoven’s, was Johann Nepomuk Hummel (below). Even though they were rivals, their respect for each other’s talent kept the relationship afloat.

Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto is a frisky fanfare with “playful dancelike” episodes laced throughout. This is the first time Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto will be performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Strauss (below top) composed his Eine Alpensinfonie (“An Alpine Symphony”) from 1911-15. The final score used materials from some of his unfinished works, including an Artist’s Tragedy and The Alps.

Though there are many influences for this piece, the main is Strauss’s love for the Bavarian Alps. In his diary he wrote: “I shall call my alpine symphony: Der Antichrist, since it represents: moral purification through one’s own strength, liberation through work, worship of eternal, magnificent nature.” Antichrist is a reference to an essay by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (below bottom), and though the title was dropped for its publication, the work still carries many of Nietzsche’s ideals.

One hour before each performance, Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), the author of MSO program notes and an MSO trombonist as well as a UW-Whitewater Professor of Music, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please visit the Program Notes at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1617/6.Mar17.html.

Single Tickets are $16 to $87 each, available at madisonsymphony.org/helseth and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit madisonsymphony.org/groups.

Club 201, MSO’s organization for young professionals, has continued to fulfill its mission for the past 11 years as the premiere organization promoting classical music and networking opportunities to the young professionals’ community in Madison. Tickets are $35 each and include world-class seating in Overture Hall, an exclusive after-party to be held in the Promenade Lounge, one drink ticket and a cash bar.

The conductor as well as musicians from the symphony may also be in attendance to mingle with Madison’s young professionals during the after-party.

The deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday, March 9, pending availability. Tickets can be purchased for this event, as well as the other events throughout the 2016-17 season by visiting the Club 201 page on the MSO’s website at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/club201.

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.

Major funding for the March concerts is provided by: The Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club, An Anonymous Friend, and Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, Inc. Additional funding is provided by: Audrey Dybdahl, Family and Friends, in loving memory of Philip G. Dybdahl, John A. Johnson Foundation, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation, Madison Veterinary Specialists, Gary and Lynn Mecklenburg, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Classical music: The Madison Early Music Festival announces the theme and dates for next summer

July 29, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

The final figures from this summer’s 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival – which celebrated William Shakespeare and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I — are not in yet.

But from what The Ear saw and heard, it sure looked like a successful one.

So what can we expect next summer?

The 18th annual Madison Early Music Festival will take place July 8-15, 2017 and have the theme “The Musical World of Don Quixote.” That would suggest Spanish and Iberian music of the 17th century Golden Age during the time when Miguel de Cervantes (below) wrote and published what is generally considered the first modern novel.

Miguel de Cervantes

From what The Ear has learned so far, the group Piffaro (below top) has been booked to return and the always impressive All-Festival Concert will be assembled and directed by MEMF veteran faculty member and performer Bob Wiemken (below bottom), who is a member of the Renaissance band Piffaro.

piffaro indoors

Bob Wiemken

According to MEMF officals, more information will become available at the end of September.

Here is a link to the MEMF website:

https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/

MEMF logo


Classical music: The Ear offers a big shout-out and good luck to three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs. They are headed this week to a major world youth festival in Aberdeen, Scotland and give a FREE send-off concert this Tuesday night

July 25, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Two years ago, it was the boy choirs of the Madison Youth Choirs that were invited to sing at the prestigious international festival in Aberdeen, Scotland.

It is, after all, the oldest youth arts festival in the world, about 40 years old and features performers form around the world.

Aberdeen International Youth Festival Opeing Ceremony

This week, on Thursday, 68 members of three girl choirs in the Madison Youth Choirs – the Capriccio (below top, in a photo by MYC director Michael Ross), Cantilena and Cantabile (below bottom) choirs — along with three conductors, are headed to the same festival.

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

NOTE: You can hear a FREE send-off sampler concert on this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road.

It is a BIG DEAL.

The repertoire the girls will sing covers classical music (Franz Schubert); folk music from Canada, Serbia, Bulgaria and Peru; and more popular music. Plus, they will sing in several languages. They will also sing a song composed in the Terezin concentration camp, or death camp, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany during World War II.

They will also give the world premiere of a piece – based on two Scottish melodies including a traditional walking song and the beautiful “The Water Is Wide” — that they commissioned from composer Scott Gendel, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (You can hear James Taylor sing a heart-breaking version of “The Water Is Wide” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Scott Gendel color headshot

The Ear heard the girls sing live last week on the Midday program with Norman Gilliland on Wisconsin Public Radio. And they sounded great.

What an honor, especially in the wake of the concert tour to Italy two weeks ago by the Youth Orchestra of the Wisconsin Youth Chamber Orchestras.

Madison sure seems to be doing a fine job providing music education to its young people while many other areas of the state and country are cutting back on arts education and where many   politicians and businesspeople are mistakenly trying to turn public support to the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math — at the expense of the arts. But the arts and the sciences really feed each other, and success in one field often helps to assure success in the other.

madison youth choirs logo

Here is a link so you can learn more about the tour and how to support or join the Madison Youth Choirs, which serves young people in grades 5-12:

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org

http://www.madisonyouthchoirs.org/aberdeen

And here is a link to the festival itself:

http://www.aiyf.org

And finally here is a link to the Facebook page for the Madison Youth Choirs, with face photos of participants:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/448022498728594/


Classical music: The Madison Youth Choirs’ Winter Concerts this Sunday will explore links between science and music. Plus, the UW Wind Ensemble performs a FREE concert Thursday night.

December 10, 2015
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ALERT: Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble will perform a FREE concert. The program features “Concerto X” by Scott McAllister with clarinet soloist Wesley Warnhoff, adjunct professor of clarinet. It is a work based on grunge music that was born in the heavy metal music of the late 80s and early 90s, including a melody from Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” Also on the program is “In Wartime” by David Del Tredici, which was inspired by the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001; and the Second Suite in F Major for Military Band by Gustav Holst.

By Jacob Stockinger

A friend at Madison Youth Choirs writes:

On this Sunday, Dec. 13, the young singers of Madison Youth Choirs (MYC, seen below at the Winter Concert last year) will present the 2015 Winter Concert Series, “Inquiry: Science, Music, Imagination” at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison, 1609 University Avenue, near Camp Randall.

Madison Youth Choirs Winter Concert 2014

Over 14 weeks of rehearsals in preparation for the concerts, the 330 young vocalists (ages 7-18) in MYC’s nine performing choirs have been learning to use the tools of observation, experimentation, and analysis to reach a deeper understanding of their choral repertoire.

Students have also begun to recognize the role that resilience plays in both scientific and musical fields, learning how to work through moments of frustration and uncertainty to reach new discoveries.

The choirs will perform a varied program, including works by Benjamin Britten, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vincent Persichetti; a Peruvian lament, a Spanish villancico, and a newly-created arrangement of the oldest-known surviving English song.

Tickets for each of the three concerts (high school ensembles at 1:30 p.m., boychoirs at 4 p.m., girlchoirs at 7 p.m.) will be $10 for general admission, $5 for students age 7-18 and free for children under 7.

Audience members will need a separate ticket for each concert.

Here is the schedule:

1:30 p.m. High School Ensembles featuring a guest appearance by the MYC-Capitol Lakes Intergenerational Choir

4 p.m. Boychoirs

7 p.m. Girlchoirs

Tickets available at the door, $10 for general admission, $5 for students 7-18, and free for children under 7

This concert is generously endowed by the Diane Ballweg Performance Fund with additional support from the American Girl’s Fund for Children, BMO Harris Bank, the Madison Community Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. 

Here is a repertoire list for the programs:

1:30 p.m. Concert (Featuring High School Ensembles)

Cantilena

Bel Tempo Che Vola ……………….Jean Baptiste Lully

Weep No More………………………..David Childs

Songbird…………………………………Sarah Quartel

Sound the Trumpet………………….Henry Purcell

When I Set Out for Lyonesse……Keith Bissell

Ragazzi (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)……Gregorian chant, ca. 10th century

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)……Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Song of Peace……………………………Vincent Persichetti

Dulaman (sung in Gaelic) …………Michael McGlynn

Madison Youth Choirs Ragazzi cr Karen Holland

Cantabile

Utopia………………………………………………………..Moira Smiley

Lacrimoso son io (K. 555, sung in Italian)…….Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Gods Have Heard My Vows…………………….Thomas Weelkes

Palomita……………………………………………………..Traditional Peruvian lament

Hoj, hura, hoj!………………………………………………………..Omar Macha

Madison Youth Choirs Cantabile

Cantabile and Ragazzi

Apple-Tree Wassail………………………Stephen Hatfield

MYC/Capitol Lakes Intergenerational Choir and Combined Choirs

Forever Young……………………………..Bob Dylan

4 p.m. Concert (Featuring Boychoirs)

Combined boychoirs, Purcell, Britten, Holst, Ragazzi

Intonent Hodie…………………………………..Anonymous (probably 12th century)

Sainte Nicholaes (sung in Latin)…………..Godric of Finchale

Purcell

Singt den Herrn (sung in German)…Michael Praetorius

Who Can Sail……………………………..Norwegian Folk Song, Arr. Jeanne Julseth-Heinrich

Rolling Down to Rio……………………Edward German

Britten (below with Purcell Choir in a photo by Karen Holland)

Rattlesnake Skipping Song……Derek Holman

Tit-for-Tat…………………………….Benjamin Britten

Jerusalem……………………………..Sir Hubert Parry, poem by William Blake

Madison Youth Purcell and Britten Choirs cr Karen Holland

Holst (below with Pucell and Britten choirs in a photo by Karen Holland)

Riu Riu Chiu (sung in Spanish)….Anonymous, from Villancicos de diversos Autores

Anima Mea (sung in Latin)……….Michael Praetorius

The Sound of Silence…………………Paul Simon

Ragazzi

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)………Gregorian chant, ca. 10th century

Regina Coeli (sung in Italian)………Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Song of Peace……………………………..Vincent Persichetti

Dulaman (sung in Gaelic) ……………Michael McGlynn

Combined boychoirs, Purcell, Britten, Holst, Ragazzi

Hava Nashira (sung in Hebrew)……….Traditional Hebrew canon

Madison Youth Choirs boychoirs Purcell, Britten and Holst CR Karen Holland

7 p.m. Concert (Featuring Girlchoirs)

Choraliers

Hava Nashira (sung in Hebrew)……….Traditional Hebrew canon

You’ll Never Guess What I Saw………….Ruth Watson Henderson

Suo Gan…………………………………..Welsh Lullaby, Arr. by Alec Rowley

Tailor of Gloucester…………………..English Folk Song, Arr. by Cyndee Giebler

Con Gioia (below in a photo by Karen Holland)

Donkey Carol………………………….John Rutter

Mid-Winter…………………………….Bob Chilcott

Fancie……………………………………Benjamin Britten

Madison Youth Choirs Con Gioia Karen Holland

Capriccio (below in a photo by Mike Ross)

Sound the Trumpet………………………………Henry Purcell

An die Musik (D. 547, sung in German, heard at bottom in a YouTube video with soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and pianist Gerald Moore)…..Franz Schubert

Palomita (sung in Spanish)……Traditional Peruvian lament, Arr. by Randal Swiggum

Niska Banja………………………….Serbian Gypsy Dance, Arr. by Nick Page

Madison Youth Choir Capriccio CR Mike Ross

About the Madison Youth Choirs (MYC): Recognized as an innovator in youth choral music education, Madison Youth Choirs (MYC) welcomes singers of all ability levels, annually serving more than 1,000 young people, ages 7-18, through a wide variety of choral programs in our community. Cultivating a comprehensive music education philosophy that inspires self-confidence, personal responsibility and a spirit of inquiry leading students to become “expert noticers,” MYC creates accessible, meaningful opportunities for youth to thrive in the arts and beyond.


Classical music: The early music group Eliza’s Toyes will explore music as medicine in a concert this Friday night at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

May 18, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friend Jerry Hui –- a supremely talented individual and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music who performs, composes and teaches at UW-Stout – sends the following word:

The Madison-based early music group Eliza’s Toyes (below top) has a concert this Friday night, May 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom). The concert is titled “Music: The Miracle Medicine.”

eliza's toyes 2015

WID_extr11_1570

Here is an introduction to the program:

“Rediscover the integral role of music as the restorer of health in the early days of medical science during the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.

“Music has been an integral part of our wellbeing. To this date, many listen to music for its power in relaxation, excitement, and even catharsis. The development of music therapy as a medical profession, as well as increasing research in the physiological and psychological effects of music, signifies our ongoing interest to understand and utilize music.

“As scientists continue to examine music in a utilitarian light, it is worthwhile for us to rediscover how human beings have historically viewed music and its connection with health.”

music and medicine clef

Tickets will be available at the door: $15 for the general public and $10 for students.

Here is the program, which is organized by theme, and which include singing i English, Latin, French, German and Spanish:

CONCERNING THE FOUR HUMORS

Vos flores rosarum  — Hildegard von Bingen (below top, 1098-1179)

Descendi in hortum meum — Cipriano de Rore

Absterge Domine (1575) — Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)

Turn Our Captivity (1611) — William Byrd (below bottom, 1540-1623)

ST. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN DEPICTED IN ALTARPIECE AT ROCHUSKAPELLE IN GERMANY

William Byrd

MIRACLES AND REMEDIES

Tantas en Santa María — (Cantigas de Santa Maria)

In principio erat Verbum (1566) — Orlando di Lassus (below, 1532-1594)

Caecus quidam (1558) — Hubert Waelrant (1518-1595)

Gehet hin und saget Johanni wieder — Melchior Franck (1579-1639)

Orlando di Lasso

PRACTICING MEDICINE

Le Tableau de l’Opération de la Taille (1725) — Marin Marais (below, 1656-1728; you can hear the piece, with a narration in French, in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Qui veut chasser une migraine — Gabriel Bataille

The nurse’s song — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)

A Wonder: The Physician — John Maynard

Marin Marais 2

GOOD HEALTH THROUGH GOOD LIVING

Chloe found Amyntas lying — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)

My fair Teresa — (Pills to Purge Melancholy)

O Sonno / Ov’e’l silenzio — Marco da Gagliano (1582-1643)

Cara mia Dafne — Lelio Bertani (1553-1612)

Sweet honey sucking bees — John Wilbye (1574-1638)

John Wilbye


Classical music: The FIFA World Cup of soccer is a perfect time to become acquainted with the astonishing music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.

June 20, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Go ahead. Forget the scores.

I know, I know.

In the 2014 World Cup of championship soccer (below), this week the U.S. beat the odds-makers and won against favored Ghana while Spain disappointed the odds-makers when it lost to underdog Chile.

World Cup 2014 playing

Nonetheless, The Ear is no jock.

But he knows a lot of people here and around the world will spend this weekend watching the competition.

So he got to wondering.

What would be good classical music to post in honor of the World Cup soccer championships that are taking place in Rio de Janeiro and many other stadiums (below) throughout Brazil between June 12 and July 13?

World Cup 2014 stadiums

And then last Saturday I went to the Cello Choir concert (below), a free concert given by the “the National Summer Cello Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, and BAM!!! there was the answer.

Here is a link to the positive review I did of the concert:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/classical-music-the-ear-takes-the-cello-cure-at-the-university-of-wisconsin-madison-and-now-cant-wait-for-another-treatment-next-summer/

Cello Choir 2014 Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

It was there that I heard two totally absorbing works by the 20th-century Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Villa-Lobos (below) was a very prolific composer, writing over 2,000 works in his lifetime (1887-1959). Given such productivity it is not surprising that some works seems second-rate. What is more amazing is how many seem so memorable and so first-rate.

Boy, did that man ever have a sense of melodic line, of poignant harmonies, of contagious and fiery Latin African rhythms. His music seems as robust and straightforward as the portraits that show the beefy composer chomping away on big cigars.

The Ear suspects that Villa-Lobos would have been a lot of fun to know and pal around with. He seems as outsized and rich in natural resources as his native country.

Villa-Lobos BW

And so does his body of work.

So why isn’t Villa-Lobos better known and more often performed outside his native country? I can’t think of the last time a work of his was performed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra or by pianists and chamber music groups at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. Maybe some readers can.

And Villa-Lobos used his native land to inform his work and the effect can be enthralling and even magical. He is a sure remedy to Eurocentric programming, and especially with a growing Hispanic population. (I know: Portuguese, not Spanish, is the colonial culture and language of Brazil. But still.)

Anyway, there I was, sitting in Mills Hall and listening to two outstanding works performed by the choir of 16 cellos and one soprano in works designed to “Brazilian-ize” Johann Sebastian Bach and update his Baroque musical style -– which I think they succeed in doing. Bach goes ethnic!

The first work was the famous Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 –- with its soaring aria-like Cantilena that has been recorded by great singers from folksinger Joan Baez (below top) to opera divas such as Victoria de Los Angeles, Anna Moffo (below bottom), Kiri Te Kanawa, Kathleen Battle and Barbara Hendricks.

Joan Baez

anna moffo

The performance that I heard live featured the UW-Madison soprano Anna Whiteway, who was absolutely exquisite. She had fabulous pitch, big volume, smooth vibrato, great diction and lovely tone. She was superb, and the cellists and conductor thought so too.

Cello Choir 2014 Anna Whiteway

Then there was the less famous Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, which included a gorgeous second movement and fabulous fugal finale.

So below is a sample from YouTube, where you can find quite a lot of quality performances of music by Villa-Lobos.

And I think that during the month-long World Cup play in Brazil, we can’t do better than to listen to other samples of beautiful music by this prolific composer who seems to The Ear way, way underplayed and under-appreciated.

Personally, these days The Ear is checking out the Bachianas Brasileiras, the Choros and the chamber music, especially the cello sonatas and the string quartets.

But there is also much more in the way of piano music, guitar music and vocal music.

So from now to the end of the World Cup, I will periodically offer examples of music by Villa-Lobos.

And what do you think of Villa-Lobos?

Do you have a favorite piece that others should listen to?

The Ear wants to hear.


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