The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is the summer solstice. Here is information about the solstice plus 20 pieces of classical music to mark the coming of summer

June 21, 2018
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ALERT: Today is the fifth annual Make Music Madison. More than 300 FREE outdoor performances will be featured at some 100 venues. For information about artists, kinds of music, places and times, go to: http://www.makemusicmadison.org 

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Thursday, June 21, 2018.

The summer solstice arrives in Wisconsin early today at 5:07 a.m. Central Daylight Time.

If you want to know more about the summer solstice, here are two stories from NBC and The Washington Post with some interesting information you might not know:

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/what-summer-solstice-ncna884991

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2018/06/20/summer-solstice-is-thursday-5-things-to-know-about-the-longest-day-of-the-year/?utm_term=.049d0675f182

Quite a few composers and works of classical music celebrate the coming of summer.

Twenty of the best-known are featured on a blog at the famous classical radio station WQXR FM in New York City. Here is a link:

https://www.wqxr.org/story/20-summertime-classical-pieces-maximum-chill/

The blog posting features many terrific sound samples, including such well-known works as “Summer” section from “The Four Seasons” violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi.

Still, some of the titles – including the famous Overture to “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn – are not accompanied by sound.

That includes one of The Ear’s favorites, “Knoxville, Summer 1915” by the American composer Samuel Barber with words by the journalist and documentarian James Agee.

Here it is, in a much-praised recording by soprano Dawn Upshaw, in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Here’s hoping summer is better in this part of the country than spring was, what with record cold in April and record rainfall in May that seems to be continuing with disastrous flooding in June.

Happy Summer, all.

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Classical music: The fifth FREE citywide annual Make Music Madison – featuring 300 concerts at 100 venues — takes place all day tomorrow

June 20, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

Tomorrow – Thursday, June 21, 2018 — is the Summer Solstice.

That means summer arrives.

That makes it the longest day and shortest night of the year.

And that also makes it the day when the fifth annual Make Music Madison will take place. The FREE citywide festival of outdoor music-making will go on all day.

According to the official website, there will be more than 300 concerts at more than 100 venues.

The website also has a very well-organized listing of concerts, artists and venues. It features a very user-friendly search engine – called a Filter Map — where you can check out the events by genre of music, name of the performers and the venue. It also includes rain accommodations, and given the weather this week, that could come in handy.

Here is a link to the complete listings:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/listings/2018/locations/

Here is a link to the website, which has a fascinating and impressive overview and also a gallery of photos from last year’s event:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org

Of course the majority of the music that will be played by both amateurs and professionals, both individuals and groups, will be non-classical: jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock and roll, folk, world, musical theater, early music, blues, Celtic, funk, gospel and many more.

But from what The Ear sees there are about 25 noteworthy classical offerings too. They include music for guitar, organ, brass, strings, cello, flute and piano, including a public piano that will be at the UW-Madison’s Alumni Park from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Other venues include churches and libraries, schools and shopping malls, parks and businesses.

Here is a more detailed list of classical offerings with artists as well as venues (you can hear a vocal group from 2015 in the YouTube video at the bottom):

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/listings/2018/artists?artist_name=&genre=Classical

Happy Listening!

If you go, leave a message about your reaction and how well it went in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: What classical music best celebrates the solstice and the arrival of summer?

June 21, 2017
6 Comments

REMINDER: Today is the fifth annual citywide Make Music Madison that celebrates the coming of summer with FREE, PUBLIC and LOCAL performances. For more information, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com

By Jacob Stockinger

Summer arrived late last night – at 11:24 p.m. — in the Midwest.

To mark and celebrate the welcome event, here are three pieces of well-known summer-related music:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” or a “A Short Night Music” (or “A Little Night Music”:

Summer from Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires”:

And Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1914” with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

But there is so much more to choose from.

Here is a link to five other pieces by different composers –- Antonio Vivaldi, Felix Mendelssohn, Frank Bridge, Alexander Glazunov, Frederick Delius and George Gershwin.

http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-pieces-classical-music-summer

Which music would you choose to mark the summer solstice and the coming of summer?

Leave word and a YouTube link, if possible, in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: The Summer Solstice arrives today, and the third annual Make Music Madison takes place TOMORROW to celebrate it

June 20, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today at 5:34 p.m. the Summer Solstice will happen. Summer officially arrives, and the days will start getting shorter while the nights will get longer.

Can that really be happening already?

Locally, the Summer Solstice will be marked TOMORROW, Tuesday, June 21, by the third annual Make Music Madison celebration.

Make Music Madison logo square

The city-wide event features more than 400 FREE performances in over 100 venues. It relies on volunteers and costs about $55,000 – a lot less than the cost of one new traffic light, according to the website.

Both amateurs and professionals, both adults and young students, will perform.

And all different kinds of music will be played: classical, swing, pop, rock, bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, soul, blues, reggae, world – you name it.

Make Music Madison 2015 photo 1

Want to know more?

For general background, including how to support the events, who are its major sponsors and to see photos of past events, go to:

http://makemusicmadison.org

For a map and a listing of events and artists taking place tomorrow:

http://makemusicmadison.org/listings/2016/artists/

To find out by location, go to:

http://makemusicmadison.org/listings/2016/locations/

The web site also has search engines that allow you to find specific artists and venues.

Make Music Madison 2015 photo 2


Classical music: It’s Father’s Day as well as the Summer Solstice plus the second FREE Make Music Madison festival. What music would you play for your father?

June 21, 2015
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is a lot of things.

It is the summer solstice — the first day of summer — so a lot of people will be listening to “Summer” section (below in a popular YouTube video with more than 9 million hits) from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi. Or perhaps they will celebrate the coming of summer with other music and other composers?

It is also the FREE citywide and mostly outdoor festival of Make Music Madison. Here is a link to the website, where you can find a search engine that feature genres and performers as well as locations:

http://makemusicmadison.org

Make Music Madison logo square

But because it is Father’s Day, I would like to hear what music you would play for your father. Leave your suggestion, with a YouTube link if possible, in the COMMENTS section.

My father liked his music less heavy. Gustav Mahler, Anton Bruckner and Richard Wagner were not for him.

But something like the Barcarolle to Jacques Offenbach’s opera “The Tales of Hoffmann” was exactly to his liking.

So here it is, for you Dad.


Classical music: Today is the first day of summer. Also today, the second annual Make Music Madison celebration features folk, blues, pop, bluegrass and other genres. Check out the artists, times and venues. But The Ear thinks that classical music is underrepresented for a city so rich in that kind of music.

June 21, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Saturday, June 21, 2014.

That makes it the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer, which arrived early here in the Midwest at 5:51 a.m. CST.

Summer Solstice

It seems so soon for the longest day of the year to arrive. Much too soon, really.

Can it really be that from now on until Dec. 21 the days will start getting shorter and the nights longer? That we are on our way toward the winter solstice? Why, it hardly seems we had a spring.

winter solstice image

Well, the good news is that today is also when the second annual FREE Make Music Madison celebration will take place.

Make Music Madison logo square

The FREE event will take place CITYWIDE.

It takes place INDOORS and OUTDOORS.

MMM 2014 indoors

MMM 2014 crowd outdoors playing

It starts in the early morning and runs until almost midnight. It features some 394 individual and group performers — lots of amateurs and some professional musicians.

All kinds of musical genres will be heard.

The emphasis and quantity are clearly on jazz, pop, rock, folk, bluegrass, gospel, hip-hop and roots music and other genres. But classical music is also included – though no specific composers, works or programs are listed.

Here is a link to the Make Music Madison homepage:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org

And here is a link to the performers, venues, time and maps for direction:

http://www.makemusicmadison.org/2014-performances/

From the homepage, you can clock on artists, times, venues.

Here are just a few hints of the offerings –- including string quartets and a performance by the Classical Guitar Quartet of Madison — that you might be interested in if you are a classical music fan:

The very young Suzuki Strings of Madison will perform:

Suzuki Strings of Madison MMM 2014

Duo-cellists Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith (below) will perform.

Kristin Scheeler and Angie Griffith duo-cellists MMM 2014

On Madison far west side, nest West Towne, Farley’s House of Pianos will host keyboard musicians:

Farley's House of PIanos MMM 20141

If you attend Make Music Madison either to perform or to listen, let The Ear know what you heard and how it went. You can even include photos if you have them. (Please don’t forget IDs and the photo credits.)

Here is the promotional video for last year’s Make Music Madison.

Unfortunately, it gives short shrift to classical music, which The Ear finds to be an odd oversight. After all, Madison is a city that can boast of a very active classical music scene for its size: It is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Pro Arte String Quartet, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and so many other fine classical individual and group classical performers and presenters.

It is posted on YouTube, where you can also find samples from last year’s performances.

The Ear thinks this year’s performance should have more YouTube videos posted, along with more videos of classical music to encourage other amateur and professional longhairs to participate:


Classical music Q&A: Conductor-violist Mikko Utevsky discusses his first year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and the lessons he brings to the concert Friday night by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra. Plus, please leave word if you are going to play the piano at Friday’s “Make Music Madison” festival.

June 20, 2013
2 Comments

REMINDER: This Friday is the Summer Solstice and the first-ever Make Music Madison citywide festival. If you plan to play on one of the four acoustic pianos being provided at fire stations around the city (no previous sign-up is required), or do other performances, please leave word in the COMMENT section with your name, the piece you will play, the place and the time. Here are links to previous posts about the event:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/classical-music-the-free-make-music-madison-festival-on-the-summer-solstice-friday-june-21-has-lined-up-four-acoustic-open-mic-pianos-at-four-fire-stations-around-the-city-so-lets-get-p/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/classical-music-on-friday-june-21-the-summer-solstice-madison-will-be-filled-with-outdoors-music-by-the-first-make-music-madison-citywide-festival-but-so-far-no-acoustic-piano-is-available-for-p/ Make Music Madison logo square By Jacob Stockinger

Friday is the Summer Solstice.

And that means there will be a lot of music performances in the Madison area since it is also the date of the inaugural Make Music Madison festival.

But once of the stand-out events is a performance by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO), which was founded a couple of years ago by Mikko Utevsky (below), a violist who at that time was a student at Madison East High School and a violist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.

The MAYCO concert is at 7:30 in Old Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on the UW-Madison campus. The program features Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, with soloists violinist Eugene Purdue and violist Deidre Buckley; Aaron Copland’s “Our Town” and Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with narrator Lori Skelton.

Admission to the concert, called “A Tribute to Educators,” is at the door and costs $5 for adults and donations for students.

Conductor Mikko Utevsky, who wrote posts for this blog from the WYSO tour last summer to Vienna, Prague and Budapest, and who just completed his freshman year the UW-Madison School of Music, recently gave an email interview to The Ear.

Mikko Utevsky with baton

You just completed your first year at the UW-Madison School of Music. How did it go? What lessons do you bring to the upcoming concert by MAYCO?

I had an excellent first year – the faculty is superb, and it’s an exciting, collaborative environment. During the school year, I try to focus as much as possible on the viola. I am, after all, a performance major, and while I hope to make a career of conducting, right now I am first and foremost a violist. MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

When I first spoke with Professor Smith about studying conducting, his advice was to become the best violist I could. That’s what I’m doing. Prof. Sally Chisholm (below) is a wonderful teacher, and I am learning a great deal from her. The viola studio at the UW is great.

Sally Chisholm

Over the summer, I have some more time to work on my conducting: I have been taking lessons with Prof. Smith (below), and spending more time with my scores, library work and much, much more time on the phone finding players.

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

I think out of the whole year, the greatest influence on my work with MAYCO didn’t come from lessons. In the past, I’ve been wary of the Classical repertoire; it poses particular stylistic problems that can be difficult to address with a youth orchestra. I am coming to it with a new appreciation and understanding founded in my music history class with Professor Charles Dill and Charles Rosen’s book “The Classical Style” (below).

Charless Rosen The Classical Style

I had the fortune to end up reading it during the class, and together it and Prof. Dill (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) opened my ears to a new way of hearing this music, a way that leaves much more room for growth than the way I was used to listening. That’s a large part of why we’re doing three Classical works this summer (one each by the Big Three — Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven).

Charles Dill

Which direction do you want to pursue as a career — violist or conductor– and why?

My hope is to become a conductor, hopefully working with a university orchestra or youth symphony program. I love to teach, and want that to be a part of my work some day. I do not plan to give up the viola, of course; at the very least I will continue to play chamber music for as long as I can still hold my bow.

Mikko Utevsky conducts MAYCO Steve Rankin

What would you like to say about the soloists and narrator?

Diedre Buckley (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) was my first viola teacher, all through middle and high school. She and Gene Purdue (below bottom) both have thriving private teaching studios in Madison, and have several students in the orchestra — about half of the violins and violas are current or former students of theirs. They are both fantastic players and teachers, and bring a lot to the stage in terms of both experience and musicality. It’s been a real pleasure working with them this week, for me and the orchestra.

Deidre Buckley Katrin Talbot

Eugene Purdue 1 Thomas C. Stringfellow

Lori Skelton (below) does a lot of the classical programming on Wisconsin Public Radio. I’ve been listening to her “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” since it was “Live From the The Elvehjem,” and frequently tune in for her Afternoon Classics when I’m not in school. She is a wonderful storyteller with a wonderful voice, and working with her on Peter and the Wolf has been a lot of fun. Lori Skelton

What would you like the audience to know about the pieces on the program?

This isn’t quite your typical Overture/Concerto/Symphony program. For starters, the symphony and the concerto are the same piece: Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364. This is probably the greatest piece in its genre, conceived on a more symphonic scale than most of Mozart’s middle concertos, and runs more than half an hour in length. (You can hear the opening in a YouTube video with Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman at bottom.) It has wonderful orchestral writing, more substantial than one would expect from a simple concerto, and it uses double viola sections to match the soloist.

We’re opening the program with music by Aaron Copland (below) to the 1939 film adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” — both the movie and the score got Oscar nominations, though they both lost. It’s a beautiful piece with a very characteristic Copland sound, depicting life in a fictional New England town.

aaron copland

Finally, we are playing the famous orchestral fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Serge Prokofiev (below). This work usually gets programmed on children’s concerts, and is seldom appreciated for its musical value, which is considerable (despite the rather silly — if charming — story). Lori Skelton will narrate the work.

Serge Prokofiev

Can you tell us any news about MAYCO and its plans, and about the same for yourself?

We have another concert coming up on August 9, also at 7:30 in Music Hall, for which we are still accepting players. The program is “New Horizons,” and includes Beethoven’s First Symphony; Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with Madison native and two-time National Trumpet Competition winner Ansel Norris (below top); and a new work by the local composer, singer and conductor Jerry Hui (below bottom).

Ansel Norris

Jerry Hui

We will be back next summer, of course. And while I have a pretty good idea of what we’ll be playing, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. As usual, I can promise variety of programming, some solid Classical works, and a spotlight on local artists.

As for me, I’ll be performing some solo Bach at the Madison Area Music Awards this weekend, taking a bike trip in July, camping, and preparing for our August concert.


Classical music: The FREE Make Music Madison festival on the Summer Solstice, Friday, June 21, has lined up four acoustic open-mic pianos at four fire stations around the city. So, let’s get practicing. And let’s remember that today is Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday.

May 22, 2013
2 Comments

REMINDER: Today is the exact bicentennial or 200th birthday of opera pioneer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Is it heresy to say I think he writes better for instruments than for the voice? What do you think of Wagner? What single opera of his is your favorite and why? The Ear wants to hear.

Richard Wagner

By Jacob Stockinger

Calling all pianists –- classical and other kinds, students and teachers, professionals and amateurs. Here is your chance to play in public!

piano keys

The chance comes in the latest news about the citywide festival called Make Music Madison that will be held on the Summer Solstice, Friday, June 21, 2013.

Make Music Madison logo square

The word comes from Michael Rothschild, who in charge of publicizing the event. Here is a link to an overview of the festival plus the hundreds of groups and individuals who have signed up so far (the deadline was May 15):

www.makemusicmadison.org

And here is a previous post I did about Make Music Madison with some YouTube videos of pianos in the street:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/classical-music-on-friday-june-21-the-summer-solstice-madison-will-be-filled-with-outdoors-music-by-the-first-make-music-madison-citywide-festival-but-so-far-no-acoustic-piano-is-available-for-p/

Says Michael Rothschild: “We now know more about the four pianos that will be at fire stations:

“The open-mic pianos will be available 4-8 p.m. on Friday, June 21.

“There won’t be any advance sign-up, but players can just wait for a turn or develop their own ordering system at each fire station.

“The stations (with photos below) are:

No. 3 at 1217 Williamson Street.

Madison fire station 3

No. 6 at 825 West Badger Road.

Madison fire station 6

No. 9 at 201 North Midvale Blvd.

Madison fire station 9

No. 10 at 1517 Troy Drive.

Madison fire station 10

The Ear thanks Michael Rothschild, the piano donor Grant Billings and the Billings Piano Gallery and the Make Music Madison festival for lining up the piano and thinks a fine job has been done at placing pianos at convenient locations all around the city.

The Ear also hopes that the Madison Area Piano Teachers Association (MAPTA) and other piano-related organizations take notice and add to the fun — as do individual pianists of all ages and talent levels and in all kinds of music.

make music madison logo wide


Classical music: Today is the Summer Solstice, and nobody wrote better summer music than Francis Poulenc. Can you name someone who did?

June 20, 2012
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the Summer Solstice (below) – the beginning of the summer and the longest day and shortest night of the year. It happens at 6:09 p.m. CST.

For weeks, various critics on radio, TV and the interview have been offering their suggestions for summertime reading, summertime movies, summertime food, summertime trips.

But you hear very little about summertime music.

Oh, there are certain well-known pieces, from Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto in The Four Seasons to Ralph Vaughan Williams and “The Lark Ascending” and all those early 20th century British composers who do pastoral music so evocatively and beautifully.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Summer” from his oratorio “The Seasons” does the job nicely, as do his “Morning,” “Noon” and “Night” Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 and 8 as well as his “Sunrise” String Quartet.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 6 (“Pastorale”) his Piano Sonata In D Major, Op. 28 – also subtitled “Pastoral” — also capture the mood of the season. And you can find Franz Schubert songs that do the same very evocatively. And a lot of the music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is unbeatably sunny, lyrical and cheerful.

Mendelssohn’s “Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream” certainly captures the right mood, as does Shakespeare’s original play. And his sunny, upbeat “Italian” Symphony is also a pretty good bet.

Then there are also wonderfully warm and moody pieces by Debussy and Ravel that are full of water and sun and breezy wind, all with a kind of seasonal torpor and lassitude.

But for my money, no one has ever done a body of work that better expresses summer than the French composer Francis Poulenc (below). For me, his music goes down as easily as a dry French rose wine with a Salade Nicoise.

Although he could also be very serious and dark, Poulenc (1899-1963) has the great French gift of lightness – beautiful melodies, poignant harmonies, all tempered with the informality and good time quality of the music hall. His music is always graceful and kind.

I also love that the same Poulenc who was a devout Roman Catholic was also an unapologetic gay man who said, “If I wasn’t homosexual, I couldn’t compose music” or words to that effect.

We just don’t hear enough Poulenc during the usual concert season – so summer is an especially good time to revisit his work, which early on, during his days as the clown of Les Six composers in France, was grossly underestimated and underperformed. Listen for yourself:

Make no mistake: Poulenc is a modern master.

So here is my offering for the summer to mark the solstice. I hope you will look at some of the wonderful collection of Poulenc’s solo piano and chamber music that are out there and agree that when the weather s warm and the light is long, that’s the perfect time to take out something by Poulenc and put it on the CD player and listen to it – to bask it during the sunny days of summer, maybe even with some great summer food in front of you. He would like that.

But if you have other pieces or other composers who you think better capture summer, just let us know.

The Ear wants to hear.


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