The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Trevor Stephenson will unveil, play and explain a restored 1855 Bosendorfer grand piano on this Friday night.

May 12, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Trevor Stephenson (below), the founder and director of the Madison Bach Musicians, will unveil, discuss and perform on a recently restored his historic Bösendorfer Grand Piano (also below), dating from about 1855.

Trevor Stephenson standing with Bosendorfer

The event takes place in the Landmark Auditorium of the Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Drive. The event includes with a lecture at 7 p.m. and a concert at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets available online at www.madisonbachmusicians.org and at the door:. They are $25 general admission; $20 for seniors; $10 for students.

Rebuilt over the last two years, the ca. 1855 Bösendorfer Grand Piano has a massive and entirely wooden frame without any of the metal insides of a modern piano–the result is an extremely complex and dark tone that suits the sensibility of most 19th-century piano music. Stephenson will discuss the restoration in detail.

Trevor Stephenson 1855 Bosendorfer collage Wein, Austria

Fittingly, the concert program will include works by Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Gabriel Fauré, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss Jr.

Trevor Stephenson will also discuss the rebuilding process and the overall character of this remarkable historical piano.

The specific program will be:

“Berceuse” (Lullaby) from the Dolly Suite, Op. 56, by Gabriel Fauré (1845−1924) with guest pianist Timothy Mueller (You can hear the opening charming “Berceuse,” along with the Spanish Dance, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posthumous, and Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2, by Frederic Chopin (1810−1849)

Sonata in C major, Op. 53 “Waldstein” by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770−1827)

Intermission

Two Hungarian Dances for piano four-hands, Nos. 1 in G minor and 5 in F-sharp minor, by Johannes Brahms (1833−1897) with guest pianist Timothy Mueller

Suite Bergamasque  by  Claude Debussy (1862−1918): Prelude, Menuet, Clair de lune, Passepied

Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19, by Arnold Schoenberg (1874−1951)

Moment Musical No. 6 in A-flat major by Franz Schubert (1797−1828)

The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314, by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825−1899)


Classical music: Trevor Stephenson will teach a class on the piano music of Claude Debussy in January and February. The deadline to register is Jan. 20.

January 12, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our good friend Trevor Stephenson — who is usually an eloquent and humorous advocate of early music as a keyboardist who founded and directs the Madison Bach Musicians — will be offering a class at his home-studio about the piano music of the early 20th-century French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy (below).

Claude Debussy 1

The class will take on four Monday evenings: January 26, February 2, 16 and 23 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Those who know Trevor Stephenson (below top) know that he is an articulate and witty explainer, a fine teacher who can reach listeners on all levels. And he will use a 19th-century piano that is close to the kind the Debussy himself used (below bottom).

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

Stephenson ca 1850 English parlor grand

TOPICS include:

. Debussy’s life and musical influences

. Construction and tonal qualities of the 19th-century piano

. Modes, whole-tone scales, harmonic language, tonality

. Touch, pedaling, sonority

. Fingering approaches

. Programmatic titling, extra-musical influences, poetry and art

REPERTOIRE includes:

. Suite Bergamasque (with Clair de Lune), Preludes Book II and Children’s Corner Suite

. Two Arabesques, Reverie and Estampes (or “Prints,” heard at the bottom in a YouTube video of a live performance by the magical and great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter in 1977 in Salzburg, Austria.)

The course is geared for those with a reading knowledge of music.

The classes will be given at Trevor Stephenson’s home studio (below). It is located at 5729 Forsythia Place, Madison WI 53705 on Madison’s west side.

Schubert house concert

Enrollment for the course is $150.

Please register by January 20, 2015 if you’d like to attend. Email is: trevor@trevorstephenson.com

 


Classical music: New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini revisits favorite moments in music for him – and the moments by Puccini, Debussy and Brahms submitted by readers.

December 22, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that several weeks ago, The New York Times‘ senior music critic Anthony Tommasini (below) wrote at length about some of his favorite moments in music. They are small moments from Chopin and other composers that he sometime heard as a child or young man, moments that have lasted him a lifetime. They still move him.

tommasini-190

(You might remember that the articulate and droll Tommasini also came to speak in Madison last season at the Wisconsin Union Theater and in Mills Hall –- a photo is below with Tommasini on the right, composer William Bolcom on the left and UW pianist Todd Welbourne in the middle as a moderator — as part of the Pro Arte Quartet Centennial celebration at the University of Wisconsin.)

William Bolcom, Todd Welbourne, Anthony Tommasini

You may also recall that, in addition to the story about musical moments, Tommasini, a composer and Yale-trained pianist, posted four short videos explaining how and why those favorite moments work.  

Here is the original story, which I posted on Thanksgiving Day, and also links to the four videos:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=Tommasini+Favorite+moments

Then just a few days ago, Tommasini answered reader responses and wrote a follow-up story, after his first story and the first four short videos he did. He used reader responses to speak of other favorite moments and post some other clips about the pieces:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/arts/music/readers-great-moments-in-classical-music.html?ref=anthonytommasini

Part 5: “La Boheme” by Puccini (below);

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/musical-moments-part-v-la-bohme/

puccini at piano

Part 6: “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy (below, the slow movement from his “Suite Bergamasque”:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/musical-moments-part-vi-clair-de-lune/

Claude Debussy 1

Part 7: “Intermezzzo” for solo piano in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1, by Brahms:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/musical-moments-part-vii-brahms/

brahms3

Are there special moments in music that resonate with you? Please leave their titles and composers in the COMMENT section here and maybe also on Tommasini’s blog posting.

Who knows? He might use your suggestions for the next installment.

video


Classical music: 150 years later, do we still not know the real Debussy?

April 5, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

During the past few years we have heard a lot about the anniversaries of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Mahler. Next year is Wagner.

But this year is a Debussy Year, and we haven’t heard nearly as much, even in anticipation.

That is regrettable.

There is a strong case to be made for Debussy (below) as The Modernist of All Modernists, the man who broke the Germanic strangle hold once and for all on classical music and who pioneering new structure and new harmony.

So far, the best piece I’ve read is this one in the UK’s The Guardian that I have linked to. But I expect to hear much more from such well-known critics as Alex Ross, Anthony Tommasini and Anne Midgette, among others.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2012/mar/29/celebrating-debussys-real-legacy

There is so much Debussy I love, and good Debussy with a strong rhythmic and harmonic  backbone – not just the gauzy focus and slushy sentimentality that we wrongly associate with Impressionism. There is structure and Cartesian rationality and irony galore, as well as a distinctly Gallic subversive sensuality, in Debussy’s work.

I love the solo piano works — the two books of Preludes, the two books of Images, the Estampes, the Suite Bergamasque and the Ile Joyeuse. I love the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet.  I love the orchestral tone poems like Prelude to the Afternoon of a FaunLa Mer and Nocturnes. And I especially adore his “Homage to Rameau” (at bottom, played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangelo).

How would you describe the “real” Debussy”

What are your favorite Debussy works and your favorite Debussy interpreters?

The Ear wants to hear.


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