By Jacob Stockinger
Has March’s proverbial lion finally yielded to the lamb?
Here is Madison there is still some snow on the ground. But it should all be gone by the end of today, which, like yesterday, will reach into the 50s.
Just in time.
Today is the Vernal Equinox, bringing the first day of spring. It arrives at 5:29 a.m. this morning.
Spring has been an inspiration to many composers. So there is a lot of music to choose from when you want to celebrate season musically.
The Ear is fickle and his choice changes from year to year.
But lately, his favorite has been the “Spring” Sonata in F Major for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear the opening of the famously tuneful and upbeat sonata, performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Of course there are violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli; choral works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Joseph Haydn; chamber music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; orchestral music by Robert Schumann, Peter Tchaikovsky and Igor Stravinsky; piano pieces by Felix Mendelssohn and Edvard Grieg; songs by Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms. And there is more, so much more.
Yesterday, Wisconsin Public Radio programmed a lot of spring music, and The Ear expects the same for today’s programming.
But you can be your own DJ if you want. Here is a list of almost two hours of spring-related music:
And here is a springtime puzzler, or quiz, about flowers in opera from NPR or National Public Radio:
Plus, there are plenty of other guides and anthologies to music for spring that you can find online.
So here is what The Ear wants to know: What is your favorite piece of music to greet spring with?
Leave words in the COMMENT section along with a link to a YouTube performance if possible.
And a Happy Spring to you!
ALERT: Today is ELECTION DAY. Be sure to vote. Then leave a COMMENT and maybe a YouTube link telling The Ear what piece of classical music should be played for the new president-elect — Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement:
This weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below), with music director John DeMain conducting, performs two early 20th-century works. One is neglected and rarely performed while the other one is considered a powerful masterpiece,.
The concert begins with Le Printemps (“Spring”) by Claude Debussy, an Impressionist ode to the living.
The Naughton twins then perform the lyrical Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos, followed by a performance of the Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich. It showcases the composer’s artistic triumph over the forces of Soviet repression. This is also the piece conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) conducted for his impressive audition here over two decades ago.
The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street, on Friday night, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, at 2:30 p.m.
An early version of Debussy’s Le Printemps was actually lost in a fire. The piece, originally written in Rome in 1886-87, premiered in Paris in 1913. Upon writing the score, Debussy (below) wrote to a friend, “…I’m calling it Printemps, not ‘spring’ from the descriptive point of view but from that of living things.”
The Naughtons will then play Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos. This piece, which is said to have been a favorite of Mozart (below, with his sister), was originally written for himself and his sister Maria Anna, nicknamed “Nannerl,” to perform. (The concerto was featured in the soundtrack to the Academy Award-Winning film “Amadeus” and you can hear the last movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
This is the first time this piece will be performed by the MSO. The listener will be able to imagine a smile, or at least a sly wink from Mozart to Maria Anna hidden within the harmonic score.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 was originally completed in 1937. This will be the third time this piece has been performed by the MSO.
The Soviet Union oddly enough was a major influence for this work. In 1933 a doctrine was released, which was intended to control the content and style of Soviet literature and other various forms of art, including music. Soviet music was hence used to serve the propaganda needs of the state.
Symphony No. 5, which the composer subtitled “The practical answer of a Soviet artist to criticism,” is a composition that was written to save Shostakovich (below) from imprisonment. You can hear the personal anxiety of an artist being controlled by the State in this historic symphony.
One hour before each performance, Anders Yocom (below), Wisconsin Public Radio Host, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
For more background on the music, visit the Program Notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1617/3.Nov16.html
Single Tickets are $16 to $87 each, available online at madisonsymphony.org/naughtons, in person at the Overture Center Box Office, 201 State Street, or by calling 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
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office, 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is available at: madisonsymphony.org/studentrush.
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.
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features pianist Mark Valenti. He will play Three Pieces from “Le Printemps” (Spring) by Darius Milhaud; the Sonata in A major by Franz Schubert; and the Sonata No. 7 in B-flat major by Sergei Prokofiev.
By Jacob Stockinger
This week brings two FREE concerts by several choral groups at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the University Chorus, Women’s Choir and Master Singers will perform a FREE concert. Sorry, no word yet about the program.
Then on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Chorale will perform a FREE concert called “It’s a Jolly Holiday!” Director Bruce Gladstone (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will conduct.
NOTE: This concert is NOT to be confused with the usually packed Winter Choral Concert — with its theme of holidays, multiple choirs and several conductors — that will take place on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 and 4 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church.
Here are some program notes:
“This fall, the UW Chorale gets into the holiday spirit.
“But which one?
“An entire year of them!
“The ensemble starts with New Year’s Day and moves through the calendar year singing choral works to commemorate each festive day.
“They’ll celebrate President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Earth Day (below) and so on, with a variety of great music that will leave you wondering why you only think about hearing a choir sing at Christmas.
“Works include “My Funny Valentine,” “Free at Last,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Regina Coeli,” Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy,” Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living” and many more.” (You can hear Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy,” with words by poet Walt Whitman and with the famous Interlochen theme from his “Romantic” Symphony No. 2, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
“There will be something for everyone as they explore the days we call “holy.””
By Jacob Stockinger
It’s a funny kind of spring where The Ear lives in the Midwest.
More than giving us a steady spring, the weather seems to bounce back and forth between winter and summer. One week we have high in the 80s. The next week — like the one coming up – we’re in the 50s or lower.
Add in all the rain and gust wind, and this spring has been hard on the flowers in my yard. The daffodils have hardly blossomed and are already shriveling up, while the newly sprouted tulips are already dropping petals.
Oh well, at least we haven’t had tornados—not so far.
But it is still worth s celebrating the greening out and other bright colors we see after the long, gray winter.
How well do you know your flowers from opera? (Below, in a photo by Cory Weaver, is mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili in a field of red poppies that was used in the production of the 19th-century Russian composer Alexander Borodin‘s opera “Prince Igor” by the Metropolitan Opera.)
The Ear found it not so hard but tricky.
But hard or not, the quiz was fun and educational.
See how you do and let The Ear know.
By Jacob Stockinger
Here is the latest of what The Ear hears from the Madison Symphony Orchestra:
Spring might seem like a long way off, but it isn’t. In fact it officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere this Friday at 5:45 p.m. CDT.
MSO chorus director and MSO assistant conductor Beverly Taylor and the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will usher in the warmer weather this Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
That is when they present the “It Might As Well Be Spring” choral concerts in Promenade Hall at Overture Center for the Arts.
The concerts will feature classical music selections from Johannes Brahms and Aaron Copland, a traditional spiritual, and the song “It Might as Well Be Spring” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “State Fair.” (You can hear the original in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Madison Symphony Orchestra Principal Pianist Daniel Lyons (below) will accompany much of the music.
Tickets are $19, available at madisonsymphony.org/springchorusconcert, at the Overture Box Office (201 State Street) or by calling (608) 258-4141.
Formed in 1927, the Madison Symphony Chorus gave its first public performance in 1928 and has performed regularly with the Madison Symphony Orchestra ever since.
The chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) was featured at the popular Madison Symphony Christmas concerts in December and will be joined by four soloists for the MSO’s performance of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s “Choral” Symphony No. 9 (“Ode to Joy”) on May 8, 9 and 10.
The Chorus, conducted by Beverly Taylor (below) is comprised of more than 125 volunteer musicians from all walks of life who enjoy combining their artistic talent., New members are always welcome. Visit madisonsymphony.org/chorus for more information.
READER SURVEY: Today is April Fool’s Day! So in keeping with tradition, here is what The Ear wants to know: What would be a really good April Fool’s joke about classical music? Discovering a 10th symphony or sixth piano concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven? Finding one of the many lost cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach? Unearthing a letter from Arnold Schoenberg disavowing his own 12-tone or atonal music as a dry and boring experiment? Use the COMMENT section to leave your April Fools treat. Be creative, original and unexpected, and have some fun.
Here is a link to one year’s entries:
By Jacob Stockinger
April is the “choralist month,” to paraphrase — with a badly twisted pun — a famous opening line from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland.”
Is it because of Easter? The end of the semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison? Or maybe the arrival of spring? Or perhaps the closing on some current seasons?
All play a role, The Ear suspects, but so does coincidence. Besides, after such a hard winter, singing out seems healthy and almost normal.
During this April, local audiences will have the chance to hear more than half a dozen major choral works –- and that doesn’t even include the Russian and Baltic concert performed this past weekend by the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.
Many of the events will have more detailed postings on this blog. But here is a summary roundup to help you fill in your datebooks and make plans.
It will kick off this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Symphony Chorus (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) and guest soloists when they perform the famously storied Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Concerts are in Overture Hall on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Guest conductor Julian Wachner will be substituting for the MSO music director John DeMain, and the program also includes guest organ soloist Nathan Laube in Jongen’s “Sinfonia Concertante.” For more information, including program notes and ticket information, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/laube
On Friday, April 11, at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with guest pianist Stewart Goodyear and the Festival Choir (below), under WCO music director Andrew Sewell, will perform Mozart’s late, short and sublime “Ave Verum Corpus” (heard at the bottom with conductor Leonard Bernstein in a popular YouTube video that has over 2 million hits) and Beethoven’s rarely heard “Choral Fantasy,” which is a sketch with solo piano of the famous last chiral movement, with the famous “Ode to Joy,” of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Stewart Goodyear’s own Piano Concerto is on the program, as is Beethoven’s epic Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.” For details, visit: http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/72/event-info/
On Saturday, April 12, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music will see a FREE performance on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” performed by the Concert Choir (below) and the UW Chamber Orchestra).
The next day Sunday, April 13 is Palm Sunday. It will see two performances (10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) of the gorgeously calm and reassuring Requiem by Gabriel Faure (below) at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, performed in the old historic Landmark Auditorium, where the organ is. FUS music director Dan Broner will conduct. Free-will offerings will be accepted.
Then on Good Friday, April 18, in the First Congregational Church and on Saturday, April 19, in the Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society, J.S. Bach’s landmark Mass in B Minor will receive two performances (both at 7:30 p.m. with a pre-concert lecture at 6:45 p.m.) from the Madison Bach Musicians, and guest soloists and the Madison Choral Project under conductor and UW bassoonist Marc Vallon.
On Saturday, April 19, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is also a FREE concert by the UW Madrigal Singers under conductor Bruce Gladstone (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot). Sorry, no word on the program yet.
On Saturday, April 26, at 8 pm. in Mills Hall the University of Wisconsin-Madison Choral Union (below) will perform the lovely and rarely performed Russian Orthodox, a cappella “Vespers” of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Beverly Taylor, who heads the UW-Madison choral program, will conduct the one-time only performance -– normally the UW Choral Union gives two performances. Tickets can be purchased for the concerts. Admission is $10 for adults and the general public; free for students and seniors. Remaining tickets will be at the door. Call (608) 265-ARTS (2787) for ticket info.
As an added bonus to April, and to wind up the spring semester, on Saturday, May 3, at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is the FREE concert by the UW Women’s Chorus and University Chorus. On Monday. May 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall the UW Master Singers will perform a FREE concert.
I’m betting there are some others I am missing, especially at Edgewood College, which I haven’t heard from yet. Perhaps readers will leave word in a COMMENT. But even from what I have listed, you see that listeners are in store for a lot of choral treats.
By Jacob Stockinger
Is that an early Spring The Ear hears coming to Middleton, Wisconsin?
The very appealing and very accessible all-masterpiece Winter Concert by the Middleton Community Orchestra (below) is this Wednesday night, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Middleton Performing Arts Center that is attached to Middleton High School.
Tickets are $10 and are available at the door and at the Willy St. Coop West. Students are free. You can get tickets at the door on the night of the show. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m,; doors open at 7 p.m.
The concert — which is guaranteed to increase your respect for and love of amateur music-making — features three professional guest artists: guest conductor Kevin McMahon (below top), maestro of the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra; violinist Eleanor Bartsch (below middle); and violist Daniel Kim (below bottom). All three are distinguished graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, where they received various scholarships, and won awards, prizes and honors.
The MCO program of “great classical hits” includes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fetchingly lovely and dramatic Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola; the high-spirited “Capriccio Espagnol” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov; and the lyrical, pastoral-like Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms, which is often compared to Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous and popular Symphony No. 6, the famous “Pastoral Symphony. (You can check out the opening movement of the Brahms, as performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, in a popular YouTube video at the bottom).
Plus, the atmosphere is casual and informal, and the seats are quite comfortable.
Usually there is no intermission to the 90-minute or so MCO concert, but this time there WILL indeed be an intermission in the program, which runs Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, Intermission and then Brahms. (I prefer no intermission. Once I get in The Zone, I like to stay there and not emerge and then try to re-enter it.) But there will be snacks, and time to meet and greet other audience members as well as the musicians.
In some ways, The Ear thinks such a community orchestra and its concert practices provide a model that professional organizations ought to consider adopting if they want to attract newer, younger audiences and cut down on the ticket prices by reducing rehearsal costs and rentals fees.
If you still need some motivation here is a link of a review I did in 2012 of one of the MCO concerts. You can also find very positive review by guest blogger John W. Barker by using the search engine on this blog.
I asked MCO co-founder and orchestra player Mindy Taranto why the usual conductor Steve Kurr (below) was not conducting: “MCO enjoyed guest conductors maestros John DeMain (of the Madison Symphony Orchestra) and David Becker (from UW-Madison and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin) for one week readings last year, and we decided that it was a good artistic opportunity for the players to experience playing under different conductors,” she told The Ear. “Kevin has been wonderful to work with and the orchestra has been very enthusiastic and inspired by his musical ideas and with the way he has engaged all of us during rehearsals for the last two months. This will be a fantastic concert! The orchestra sounds very good!
Sounds terrific. So, The Ear says let’s check it out.
And here is a link to the Middleton Community Orchestra’s website with more information about this and other upcoming concerts (the one on June 4, with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A Minor featuring soloist Thomas Kasdorf, sounds like a MUST-HEAR) as well as information about how to support it and even join it.