ALERT: Tonight’s concert of African-American spirituals and songs has been CANCELLED because guest scholar and singer Emery Stephens is ill. The UW-Madison School of Music hopes to reschedule the event later this spring.
By Jacob Stockinger
Guess who turns 332 on March 21?
This coming Saturday will bring a 12-hour, noon to midnight, marathon party for the Birthday Boy – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750, seen below in a humorous poster for a similar event held several years ago).
The local event – now part of the nationwide “Early Music Month” — is being revived, thanks to Madison violist Marika Fischer Hoyt (below), who performs with the Madison Bach Musicians, the Ancora String Quartet and the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and to many sponsors.
The party will take place at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below) on Regent Street. (Several years ago, the event, when it was sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, was held at the Pres House.) There will be live audio-visual streaming and free wi-fi, and the event will be recorded.
Here is a link to the updated schedule of performances:
Here is a link to an earlier post about the upcoming event:
If you love the music of Bach (below) – and The Ear doesn’t know anyone who is into classical music who doesn’t revere Bach — there will be a lot to love and to listen to at this FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC celebration.
The event is modeled after a longtime similar event in New Orleans and those who attend it can come and go and come back again.
Local performers include groups and individuals who are professionals (Madison Bach Musicians and Wisconsin Chamber Choir), amateurs and students (Suzuki Strings of Madison).
The impressive program includes lots of variety.
There will be preludes and fugues.
Cantatas and concertos.
Sonatas and suites.
Obscure works will be performed.
But there will also be popular works such as two Brandenburg Concertos (Nos. 3 and 5), The Well-Tempered Clavier (Books I and II), the Magnificat, a Violin Concerto, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and some of The Art of Fugue. (You can hear Fugue No. 1 from “The Art of Fugue,” which will be performed at BATC, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
There will be music played on period instruments and on modern instruments, including the harpsichord and the piano; the baroque violin and the modern violin; older recorders and newer flutes, the viola da gamba and the cello. And of course there will be lots and lots of singing and organ music.
Given such a marathon undertaking, you should know that there will be refreshments (coffee, tea, bottled water and snacks), comfortable seating and special birthday cakes — served at midnight — provided by Clausen’s Eurpean Bakery in Middleton.
NOTE: You can find out more when several organizers and performers from Bach Around the Clock are Norman Gilliland’s guests on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Midday” this coming Thursday from noon to 12:30 p.m.
For more information –including how to support the event with a donation and how to participate in it as a performer – go to the event’s homepage:
Here are some links to previous posts on this blog about attending earlier versions of Bach Around the Clock. Read them and look at the pictures, and you will see how enjoyable they are and how informative they are.
See you there!
ALERT: Just a reminder that UW-Madison professor and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp will repeat his recent program with pianist Eli Kalman this Sunday afternoon during “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen.” The FREE concert starts at 12:30 p.m. in the Brittingham Gallery 3. The program includes sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven and Cesar Franck plus preludes by Sulkan Tsintsadze. The recital can also be streamed LIVE.
Here is a link to more information about the performances and program:
And here is a link to the Chazen streaming site:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has been sent the following information to post:
Madison Bach Musicians is excited to offer a Summer Chamber Music Workshop from July 25 to July 28, 2017, focusing on historically informed performances of baroque and classical music.
This workshop is open to intermediate and advanced players who are high school age and older. Participants will be assigned to an ensemble group, and music will be sent in advance to allow musicians to learn their parts beforehand. (Below is a group photo from last summer’s workshop that was taken by Mary Gordon.)
The workshop will include personalized ensemble coaching, master classes, a faculty concert, community lunches and a final closing concert for a supportive and appreciative audience.
Keyboard player Trevor Stephenson (below top), who founded and directs the Madison Bach Musicians, and violinist Kangwon Kim (below bottom) are the co-directors of the summer session.
Other faculty members include flutist Linda Pereksta (below top) and cellist Martha Vallon (below bottom).
All of this will take place in the beautiful and acoustically rich spaces of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.
Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 15, 2017. (Early application discount will be given until March 20.)
Instruments covered include the violin, viola, cello, harpsichord, fortepiano, piano, flute, recorder, oboe and bassoon.
For more information and full details as well as a schedule of classes, faculty and performances – which will include the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach (see the YouTube video at bottom) as well as music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli — go to:
For information about being an auditor and a schedule of concerts, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
Jazz and classical music are not so different, says Swiss-born composer Daniel Schnyder.
For Schnyder, it is more than an academic matter. He puts his point of view into action in his acclaimed chamber opera “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” which deals with the life of the bebop saxophone player and jazz giant. (You can see the YouTube trailer for the productions by Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater in Harlem at the bottom.)
The Madison Opera will offer the work’s Midwest premiere when it stages the chamber opera this Friday night (NOT Saturday night, as first mistakenly posted here) at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Both performances are in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center. (Performances photos below are from the world premiere at Opera Philadelphia.)
Here is a link to more general information about the opera, tickets, the cast and the production:
Daniel Schnyder (below) — who will perform a FREE concert of the music of Charlie Parker and do a question-and-answer session on this Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (NOT 7 p.m. as mistakenly first stated here) in Morphy Hall on the UW-Madison campus — also agreed to an email interview with The Ear:
What was the work’s genesis and what gave you the idea for “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird”? Are you a big jazz fan and did you see the work as a way to meld the jazz and classical styles of music?
I am a jazz fan. I am also a jazz musician and I love to compose, play and improvise in the jazz idiom. I have recorded more than 30 jazz CDs.
I love to combine jazz and classical music. I just finished a symphony for orchestra and big band, a commission by the Temple University in Philadelphia.
The idea from the very beginning was to write an opera for Lawrence Brownlee, the great African-American tenor. Opera Philadelphia asked me to write a work for him and we tried several libretto options. After hearing a recital by Larry singing gospel songs, I came up with the idea to write an opera about Charlie Parker’s life.
How would you describe the musical style of the opera in terms of tonality and melody, and its accessibility to the general public? What were the audience reactions in Philadelphia and New York City?
In both places, the audiences were very moved by the story and the music. The topic hit a nerve, something our society has to reflect upon, a general issue that concerns us all as a nation.
The music itself is not hard to listen to and moves swiftly. For the orchestra and singers, the opera is rather challenging, since Charlie Parker (below) was a virtuoso. The music moves fast and often in off-beat rhythms that are unusual for classical musicians. There are also a lot of odd meters and tricky patterns that sometimes connect to Parker’s music and sometimes relate to the music that came after him.
The audience will have a ball. There are 12-tone music passages reflecting on new music and opera — mostly in Nica’s parts — but there are a lot of R&B influences and jazz and Latin music grooves.
It would be false to see the opera as a patchwork of different musical sequences and styles. It is my music that is based on all these influences. The opera can be described as a modern music carpet with lots of colors of today’s music, rather than a quilt.
In what ways do you see the characters and the story as offering lessons and being relevant to today?
I guess this is obvious: Our society has to understand that different cultures and different ethnic backgrounds enrich America and are fundamental to its culture and success.
If we go down the path of segregation, divisiveness and disrespect, we all will lose. Jazz is the great coming together of different heritages, the roots of America, and it conquered the world.
We still erect barriers in society and music that are detrimental to growth and innovation. Other contemporary issues are also important in the opera, such as being a single parent, drug addiction and faith.
The opera also highlights that jazz musicians at the time could not earn money from recorded music, something that is true again today. The stealing of royalties from Parker and Dizzie Gillespie were different from today’s issues of streaming, but the problem of jazz musicians not receiving money for their creative works stays the same.
In the opera, Parker discusses the very nature of music, its volatility and the fact that you cannot physically possess it. This is one of the reasons why he wants to write the music down on paper. He wants to make it abstract, but realizes that he loses some of the essence of what he wants to say. That is the dilemma of the composer.
He also reflects on the notation system, which was not designed for jazz. He sings: “How can I put down these black dots on white paper, how can I capture these sheets of sound?”
The opera reflects on American history, but it simultaneously relates to today’s world. This is not just some nice story about the past; it is about us.
Quite a few other productions have been planned. What do you think explains the work’s popularity? Do you think it attracts new audiences to opera?
There might be many different reasons for that:
1) There are very few operas using the modern jazz idiom.
2) There are very few operas in which the leading roles are African-American.
3) The opera is flexible; it can be produced with a moderate budget in a lot of different venues. It is mobile, which is similar to L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) by Igor Stravinsky. It also has a length of just over 100 minutes.
4) As mentioned above, the opera hits a nerve; it is about our time and about us.
5) Charlie Parker is a legend, but very few people really know about him and his music. People are intrigued.
6) The music is very accessible; it can be played on the radio without getting boring or incomprehensible. Some modern operas rely a lot on light, staging and special visual effects. This opera works more like Carmen or a Verdi opera, told through the music.
7) It is an opera, not a musical. It only uses a song format in a few instances. The opera is composed in an open and evolving format, connected by leitmotifs similar to Wagner’s operas.
The music definitely has a lot of jazz influences, but the format is mostly one not used in jazz music. That creates a new experience. It does not fit into one of the known “drawers” of music, so it can be tempting to try to compare it to their pieces but it sticks out as musically different.
8) The opera is composed very close to the sound and rhythms of the words. Hence you can understand a lot. The language is very direct and clear, close to spoken language. That helps. You can actually understand a lot of the lyrics without reading the supertitles.
I tried to avoid the Strauss or Wagner effect of creating something where the mix of complex language and complex music creates something beautiful but often incomprehensible. French and Italian operas are better in this regard. “Yardbird” has a message that needs to be understood.
9) There are many riddles in the opera – musical riddles, but also hidden messages and references in the text – that can be explored. The opera plays in a twilight zone between death and life. This is also intriguing.
Is there something else you would like to say about yourself and the opera?
I enjoyed writing the opera very much. It was a great pleasure and an honor to reflect on one of the great music geniuses in American history.
|By Jacob Stockinger
Here is the latest on a popular tradition to kick off the New Year:
The Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day concert, From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2017,” conducted for the first time by Gustavo Dudamel, will air on Great Performances on PBS stations across the country on Sunday, January 1.
It will air at 10 a.m.-noon on Wisconsin Public Radio, and at 6:30-8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television. (At noon, WPR will broadcast another celebratory work for the New Year: the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain performing the Ninth Symphony “Choral,” with its “Ode to Joy” finale, by Ludwig van Beethoven,)
For more than 75 years, the Vienna Philharmonic has ushered in the New Year with the light and lively, quintessentially Austrian music of Johann Strauss, his family, and their contemporaries, performed at the Golden Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein.
Since 1987, the concert has featured a different conductor each year, and this year Mr. Dudamel, 35, will be the youngest-ever to lead the popular and festive New Year’s concert.
The Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert is broadcast in over 90 countries and will have an estimated 50 million television viewers, making it the largest worldwide event in classical music.
Among traditional waltzes, polkas and other works, Mr. Dudamel will conduct Strauss’s famous “Blue Danube” Waltz on the occasion of the work’s 150th anniversary, and pieces by Otto Nicolai, founder of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Host Julie Andrews (below) will also take the viewer to picturesque Viennese landmarks, including Otto Nicolai’s study in the Haus der Musik, and will join Mr. Dudamel in visiting the student musicians of Superar, the El Sistema organization for Central Europe. Mr. Dudamel was famously a product of the El Sistema program in his native Venezuela, and this broadcast will offer a special look at these talented musicians of tomorrow.
While the Vienna Philharmonic, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, honors tradition and history with the New Year’s concert, it also looks to the future with the debut of its new concert attire designed exclusively for the orchestra by Dame Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler.
Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, Andreas Großbauer, recognizes the importance of linking the past and present and uniting practicality with modern elegance. “In the age of video streaming and HD broadcasts, it is increasingly important how an orchestra appears onstage. In Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, we have found a design duo which suits the high standards of the Vienna Philharmonic brand.”
The new philharmonic suit features an updated design to the traditional garments worn by the orchestra. Customarily, men of the Philharmonic have performed in the Stresemann, a semi-formal suit with striped formal trousers, grey waistcoat and necktie for daytime concerts and a formal tailcoat, striped formal trousers, and white waistcoat and bow tie for evening performances, while the women have chosen their own formal black concert attire.
Vivienne Westwood and her design partner and husband, Andreas Kronthaler, who are known for their nonconformist yet historically inspired fashion, have redesigned and modernized the traditional day and evening suits with contemporary functionally in mind. The designers have also created a first-ever Philharmonic ladies suit for both day and evening concerts.
The new suits are tailored in the traditional cut of Savile Row Bespoke and feature a modern black cutaway jacket, worn in lieu of the tailcoat, paired with the traditional striped trousers and waistcoat.
For day concerts, the men will wear a silver-grey waistcoat and tie embroidered with the Vienna Philharmonic logo, and for evening concerts, a white waistcoat and bow tie inspired by a classic white-tie suit. The ladies suit features a black collarless coat and slim-cut trousers. For day concerts, the suit is paired with a silver-grey top that complements the men’s day suits, and for evening, a black silk top.
Here is a summary and the playlist:
Vienna Singverein Concert Choir
Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor
Julie Andrews, Host
FRANZ VON SUPPE Queen of Spades, Overture (Pique Dame)
C.M. ZIEHRER Right This Way, Waltz – Ballet
OTTO NICOLAI Moon Chorus
OTTO NICOLAI The Merry Wives of Windsor
JOHANN STRAUSS Pepita Polka
JOHANN STRAUSS The Extravagant, Waltz
JOHANN STRAUSS, SR Indian Galop
JOSEF STRAUSS The Nasswald Forest Maiden, Ländler
JOHANN STRAUSS Let’s Dance, Quick Polka – Ballet
JOHANN STRAUSS A Thousand and One Nights, Waltz
JOHANN STRAUSS Tick Tock Quick Polka
EDUARD STRAUSS With Pleasure! Quick Polka
JOHANN STRAUSS On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Waltz
JOHANN STRAUSS, SR Radetzky March
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Christmas Day, 2016.
You may have your own collection of recorded holiday music.
But if you are looking for familiar or especially unfamiliar classical music to help you celebrate the holiday, The Ear has some suggestions as a sort of holiday gift.
There is always the reliable Wisconsin Public Radio and other affiliates of National Public Radio (NPR), which will feature holiday music throughout the day. And chances are pretty good that the local community-sponsored alternative radio station WORT-FM 89.9 will do the same.
But YouTube also is offering some other sources that you can stream while you are opening gifts, eating, mingling, gathering with others for the holiday or just enjoying it by yourself.
Plus the audio sites have timings so you can skip or find specific pieces or event movement within the pieces.
Here are two:
And here is one of The Ear’s favorites, with over one million hits because it features more than three hours of music with a lot of music of the Italian Baroque, including works by Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Giuseppe Torelli, Francesco Manfrediini and Pietro Locatelli as well as music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hector Berlioz, Peter Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Astor Piazzolla:
Feel free to make other suggestions by leaving a composer, title and links, if possible, in the COMMENT section.
And also feel free to tell us what is piece is your favorite classical music for Christmas and why.
The Ear wants to hear.
And MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
ALERT: Edgewood College will present its 89th Annual Christmas Concerts tonight at 7 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel, 1000 Edgewood College Drive.
Now expanded to two performances, the holiday concert features the Edgewood College choirs and Concert Band, along with audience sing-alongs, prelude music by the Guitar Ensemble, and a post-concert reception featuring the Jazz Ensemble.
By Jacob Stockinger
Classical music meets old media and new media this weekend through opera and chamber music.
This Saturday marks the beginning of the LIVE RADIO broadcasts of operas from the Metropolitan Opera (below) in New York City. This will be the 86th season for the radio broadcasts, which educated and entertained generations of opera lovers before there were DVDs, streaming and the “Live in HD From the Met” broadcasts to movie theaters.
The performances will be carried locally on Wisconsin Public Radio, WERN-FM 88.7. This Saturday, the starting time for Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” with Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko (below, in a photo by Richard Termine for The New York Times), is 11:30 CST. Other operas will have different starting times, depending their length.
This season runs from Dec. 3-May 15.
Radio has certain strengths, The Ear thinks. For one, it allows the listeners to focus on the music, to be less distracted or less enriched – depending on your point of view – by sets, costumes, lighting, the physicality of the acting and other stagecraft that is left to the imagination.
This season, there will be lots of standard fare including: Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Aida”; Puccini’s “La Boheme”; Bizet’s “Carmen”; Beethoven’s “Fidelio”; Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and “The Flying Dutchman”; Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” and “Salome”; and Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”
But you can also hear the new music and less frequently staged operas. They include the 2000 opera “L’amour de loin” (Love From Afar) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which will receive its Metropolitan Opera premiere next week, on Dec. 10.
Here is a link to the complete season along with links to information about the various productions. Starting times are Eastern Standard Time, so deduct an hour for Central Standard Time or a different amount for your time zone:
On this Sunday afternoon, the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer), longtime artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, will wrap up the first semester of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen,” which used to air weekly on Wisconsin Public Radio but now is presented once a month, on the first Sunday of the month, directly by the museum.
The program this Sunday features the “Italian Serenade” by Hugo Wolf; the String Quartet No. 3 in F Major by Dmitri Shostakovich; and the String Quartet in A-Flat Major, Op. 105, by Antonin Dvorak.
The FREE concert takes place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery No. 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Donors to the museum can reserve seats. Concerts by the Pro Arte Quartet, kind of the house quartet of the museum, are usually “sold out.”
But the concert can also be streamed live via computer or smart phone by clicking on the arrow in the photo and using the portal on the following website:
You might also want to arrive early or stay late to see the historic and rare First Folio edition (below) of the plays by William Shakespeare that is on display at the Chazen Museum through Dec. 11 to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard.
By Jacob Stockinger
“Sex, drugs and classical music”?
It was easy to underestimate the Amazon comedy sitcom “Mozart in the Jungle” as just a commercial low-brow, rock and roll take on the high-brow world of classical music.
Until two weeks ago.
One award went to the accomplished Mexican actor, director and producer Gabriel Garcia Bernal (below) for the Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical. He plays Rodrigo, an orchestra conductor.
The second award went to the show as Best TV Series for Comedy or Musical.
Will any Emmys follow?
The second season has been ready for streaming since Dec. 30. And winning the two Golden Globe awards is sure to spike viewer interest. (You can see the trailer for Season 2 in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Although there are some fine things to admire in Season 2, apparently it loses steam and gets repetitive.
At least that is the assessment of music critic Zachary Woolfe, who writes for The New York Times.
One interesting sidelight of Season 2 is that several big-name classical musicians make a cameo appearance on the show.
The flamboyant Chinese superstar pianist Lang-Lang:
And mainstream American piano star Emanuel Ax, who will perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in March. (NOTE: Ax was to play the Symphonic Variations by Cesar Franck and the Burleske by Richard Strauss. That program has now been changed to the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.)
To The Ear, the show still sounds like fun – if you can get past or overlook the endless sense of crisis.
Which, curiously, also just happens to be how one might feel about the real-life, non-fiction world of classical music these days with its focus on declining attendance, fewer recordings, labor strife and programming.
Here is a link to the review:
Tell us in the COMMENT section what you think of either the first season or the second season, if you have already started to watch it.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Christmas Day 2015.
The Ear has only a few words, but a lot of music, to offer.
First, he wants to thank all his readers for the ongoing gift of their eyes, ears and attention as well as their comments.
In return, The Ear is offering his readers his favorite Christmas music.
It is performed superbly below in a YouTube video by Sir John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists in a superb performance that comes from their worldwide Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.
Listen to it for the energetic and brassy opening movement.
Listen to it for various other wonderful moments, including the lovely Sinfonia.
Listen to it for the gorgeous solo and choral singing.
Listen to it in its entirety or in parts.
Stream it on or around Christmas Day.
But listen to it, now or later, especially if you don’t already know it.
And be sure to let us know in the COMMENT section what your favorite piece of Christmas music is.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
By Jacob Stockinger
Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2015.
Music is such a part of Thanksgiving Day, from hymns and songs, solo music and chamber music, symphonies and oratorios.
And from 10 until noon, will also feature band, choral and instrumental music from the Honors Concerts of the Wisconsin School Music Association. That involves middle school and high schools students from around the state.
Then from noon to 3 p.m. there is a special National Public Radio (NPR) program for Thanksgiving that includes the British pianist Stephen Hough, who has performed several times in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater and with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and who also held master classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. (The NPR show features music and stories, and will also include Chris Kimball of the popular TV show and magazine America’s Test Kitchen, which he is leaving because of a contract dispute. By the way, you can stream Wisconsin Public Radio,)
But you might also be interested to stream some other music. WQXR, the famed classical music radio station in New York City, has put together the Top 5 musical expressions of giving thanks. The website has audio and visual performances of the works that you can stream.
Here is a link:
And if you have other ideas about music that is appropriate for Thanksgiving this year, please leave them in the COMMENT section, preferably with a YouTube link if possible.
The Ear wants to hear.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
By Jacob Stockinger
The critics’ judgments are in and they seem unanimous: iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and other similar streaming services do a grave injustice to classical music. In the end, CDs and vinyl LPs are far better than streaming for a quality listening experience.
The difficulties apparently have to do with engineering and the limits of technology, specifically of the digital compression of sound.
Here are three good and convincing critiques to read:
From The Atlantic magazine:
Here is an analysis from the prolific and always interesting reporter Anastasia Tsioulcas (below), who writes for National Public Radio (NPR) and its outstanding classical music blog Deceptive Cadence. She tackles other streaming services including Pandora and Spotify. She focuses on the organization and the difficulty of finding the music you want to listen to: