The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This will be an outstanding semester for piano fans in the area. But it starts with a “train wreck” this Friday night with dueling piano concerts by Christopher Taylor and Ilya Yakushev.

January 20, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

For piano fans, the first semester in Madison proved a bit underwhelming, even disappointing when compared to many past falls.

But that is about to change this semester, starting this weekend.

Of course this piano-rich week comes complete with the inevitable piano “train wreck,” as The Wise Critic terms such scheduling conflicts and competition.

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141


For many area listeners, the big annual piano event is on this Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall. That is when the UW-Madison School of Music virtuoso Christopher Taylor (below) — whom The Ear hears other schools are trying to lure away from the UW — performs his annual solo faculty recital.

Taylor, famed for his prodigious technique and fantastic memory, has won praise nationwide and even internationally for his performances of all kinds of difficult music, from Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven to Olivier Messiaen and Gyorgi Ligeti as well as contemporary musicians like Derek Bermel.


Taylor’s program this time is an unusual one that mixes old and new.

It features another of the dazzling two-hand transcriptions by Franz Liszt of the symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, which Taylor has been performing elsewhere in a cycle. This time he will perform the famous Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastoral.”

Also on the program are seven of the 12 etudes by the contemporary American composer William Bolcom, who taught at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5, by Johannes Brahms — a wondrously dramatic and beautiful work that you can hear performed by Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner Radu Lupu in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Tickets are $10 and benefit the UW-Madison School of Music Scholarship Fund.

For more information, including some national reviews of Taylor, here is a link to the UW website:

But, as I said, there is a problem.

At exactly the same time on Friday night, in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, is a terrific concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev (below), who last performed Prokofiev and Gershwin concertos with the WCO.

This Friday night’s program includes Yakushev in two well-known concertos: the keyboard concerto in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Felix Mendelssohn.

ilya yakushev 3

Also on the program – typically eclectic in the style that conductor Andrew Sewell (below) favors — is the English Suite for Strings by British composer Paul Lewis and the Chamber Symphony No. 2 by Arnold Schoenberg.

For information, go to:


But this piano weekend doesn’t stop there.

On Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., Ilya Yakushev will open the new season of the Salon Piano Series when he plays a solo recital in the concert room (below) at Farley’s House of Pianos, on Madison’s far west side.

The program includes the famous Sonata in C minor “Pathétique,” Op. 13, by Ludwig van Beethoven; the Sonata No. 2 by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and “Carnival” by Robert Schumann. A reception will follow the recital.

Farley Daub plays

Here is a link with more information:

And as background, here is a Q&A that The Ear did in 2011 with Ilya Yakushev:

ilya yakushev mug


Of course this is just the beginning of Piano Heaven.

There is still the concerto competition for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) to come, along with the UW-Madison concerto competition, the Bolz “Final Forte” Concerto Competition of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and others.

Later this semester, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will also feature two other returning pianists –- Shai Wosner (below top) and Bryan Wallick (below bottom). They will perform, respectively, two concertos by Franz Joseph Haydn and the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major “Emperor” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Shai Wosner Photo: Marco Borggreve

Bryan Wallick mug

Here is a link to the WCO website:

And let’s not forget the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to the above piano events and others, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will feature the Irving S. Gilmore Competition winner Ingrid Fliter (below), a native of Argentina, in the lusciously Romantic Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frederic Chopin on Feb. 13-15 – perfect fare for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Ingrid Fliter playing

That program which also includes the Symphony No. 4 by Robert Schumann and British composer Benjamin Britten’s “Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge” -– Bridge was Britten’s teacher — promises to be a memorable performance by a renowned Chopin specialist who last played a solo recital here ay the Wisconsin Union Theater.

And if you know of more. just add them in a Reader’s Comment for others to see,



Classical music: The best audiences in town and hundreds of talented young musicians will be in the spotlight at Sunday’s concerts by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

May 17, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

What classical music group plays to the best audiences in town?

You might pick a large, well known group like the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera or the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Or you might even pick the UW School of Music faculty members, guest artists and students – all of which receive many standing ovations in a given season.

But you would be wrong.

Hands down —  hands together, really — The Ear’s prize for the BEST AUDIENCES goes to the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

If you want to feel how energized a classic music crowd can – and should — get, I heartily suggest you take in the very affordable spring concerts by WYSO this coming Sunday afternoon and night.

Every time I have attended WYSO, concerts I have not only been deeply impressed with the high level of playing and musicianship (you will be too, if you listen to the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 excerpt at the bottom); I have also been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm from friends, family and other fans that greets these young people who range from middle school to high school.

Informality rules – a lesson, perhaps for other classical music groups looking to grow attendance. You see the audience members, who pack the hall, show up in T-shirts, bluejeans and shorts. You hear the loud cheers, hoots and hollers as the young musicians come on stage, perform and then leave the stage. The audience members photograph and videotape the musicians as they perform. Audiences just don’t come energetic, more serious and more appreciative than you find at WYSO.

It is all so exciting. You would never get the idea that classical music audiences are typically old, stodgy and staid when you attend these concerts. WYSO concerts are filled with young people, with children (below), and even a sound-proof room is provided for parents of small children who get restless and cry out or act up.

On Sunday afternoon and evening, more than 300 talented young musicians will wrap us this season of hard work at home and weekly ensemble practicing with the annual Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts.

At 1:30 p.m., WYSO’s string orchestra, Sinfonietta, will open the concert series with a performance of “Sakura” for Solo Cello and String Orchestra by M.L. Daniels, featuring soloist Hannah Wolkstein, a WYSO alumna and sectional coach.

The Concert Orchestra will follow with Bach’s “Chorale and Fugue” and Bizet’s “Intermezzo” from “L’Arlésienne.

At 4 p.m., WYSO’s Percussion Ensemble will perform selections including “Londonderry Air,” dedicated to the ensemble’s graduating seniors. The Percussion Ensemble (below) will feature two world premieres, “Rhapsody,” by Matt Halloran, arranged by WYSO alumna Amy Novick, and “Tacoma,” by WYSO percussionist Corinne Steffens. “Tacoma” is dedicated to Madison West High School music educator Steve Morgan, who is retiring this year.

Then comes the Philharmonia Orchestra (below in a photo by Cheng-Wei Wu).

The Philharmonia will showcase the talents of Concerto Competition winner Isabella Wu (below), who will perform the first movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, accompanied by her fellow orchestra members. Philharmonia will also bring a few audience favorites to life, including “Danse Bacchanale” from Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Delilah,” and the first movement of Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony.”

The Youth Orchestra, WYSO’s premier performing group, which travels to Europe this summer, will take the stage following the Harp Ensemble (below) at 7 p.m. and will also highlight this year’s Concerto Competition winners.

With the Youth Orchestra (below), clarinetists Hattie Bestul and Max Butler (below top)  will perform the first movement of Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets. David Cao (below middle) will perform the third movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Anthony Cudzinovic (below bottom) will perform the first movement of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D minor. All four soloists will be accompanied by the Youth Orchestra, which will also perform Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture.

The Bolz Family Spring Concerts, act of which typically last about 90 minutes, will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the UW-Madison’s Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison. Tickets are available at the door, and cost $8 for adults and $5 for children under 18 years of age.

And let’s not forget to praise the sponsors of such important educational events especially at a time when the state and schools are cutting back on music and the arts:

These concerts are supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, and the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times. This project is also funded in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information, including impressive historical background about WYSO as well as details about how to  donate or become a sponsor and how to audition to play in WYSO, write to WYSO, Room 1625 Humanities Bldg., 455 N. Park St, Madison, WI 53706; call (608) 263-3320; or visit:

« Previous Page

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,245 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,211,241 hits
%d bloggers like this: