The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Trevor Stephenson explains why Baroque music sounds so good at holiday time. His Madison Bach Musicians will perform their annual Baroque Holiday Concert of Bach, Corelli and Telemann this coming Saturday night. Plus, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet performs a FTREE concert Thursday night at 7:0 p.m. and at noon on Friday you can hear a FREE performance of two sonatas for violin and piano by Beethoven.

December 9, 2015
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ALERT: On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall, the UW -Madison’s Wingra Wind Quintet will perform a FREE concert of 20th-century music by Henry Cowell, Irving Fine, Robert Muczynski, Alan Hovhaness and Elliott Carter. For more information, here is a link:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/wingra-woodwind-quintet/

This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the meeting house of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Wendy Adams and pianist Ann Aschbacher in two sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 30, No. 1, and Op. 96.

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Saturday night, the Madison Bach Musicians and guest soloists will perform their annual Baroque Holiday concert. (Below is a photo by Kent Sweitzer of the 2014 concert in the same venue.)

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2014 CR Kent Sweitzer

The concert is at 8 p.m. at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., near Camp Randall.

Tickets are $23-$28 and can be purchased at the door, with discounts in advance at certain outlets or online.

For more information, visit the MBM website at:

http://madisonbachmusicians.org/december-12-2015/

Trevor Stephenson, who is a master explainer and who will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m., recently spoke via email to The Ear:

Prairie Rhapsody 2011 Trevor Stephenson

This is the fifth annual Baroque Holiday Concert by the Madison Bach Musicians. Generally speaking, what is your goal when you program for it?

The idea of the Baroque Holiday Concert is to present an interesting and varied program of Baroque and Renaissance music, some of which pertains to the holiday season and to winter itself.

More importantly we try to program outstanding pieces that Madison audiences may not have had a chance to hear very often in live performance, particularly, played on period instruments and with historically informed performance practices.

MBM Baroque Holiday Concert 2012

Why is Baroque music so popular at the holidays? What is it about the music itself that makes it feel so appropriate to the occasion?

Baroque music, whether it is written specifically for the holidays or not, does indeed sound terrific this time of year. I think the baroque style really strikes the right balance between energy and form — a perfect marriage of theater and church.

The Bach cantatas, two of which we’ll be playing on this upcoming concert, are perhaps the strongest examples of this fusion. The bearing of these pieces is always devotional, while the compositional technique—the process of invention in them—is always searching, exploratory, even avant-garde.

Look at the opening of Cantata 61, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now Come Savior of the Heavens) where Bach (below) begins by firing up a martial-sounding dotted-rhythm French overture and then layers in the voices, one at a time, in long moaning tonally-veering chant lines. And yet, this all seems to operate within a framework that can accommodate it.

Bach1

Briefly and in non-specialist terms, what would you like the public to know about each of the works?

In addition to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 61, the more grand-scale Advent Cantata discussed above, we’ll also be presenting the more intimate Cantata 151, Süßer trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet Comfort, My Jesus Comes) composed for the third day of Christmas), which opens with an elegant and extended aria for soprano and obbligato baroque flute. We’re thrilled that this will be performed by outstanding soprano Chelsea Morris and baroque flutist extraordinaire Linda Pereksta.

We’ll also perform the rightly beloved “Christmas” Concerto in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, by Arcangelo Corelli. The melodic material, the sequential dance-movement structure and the unsurpassed beauty of the string writing in this concerto grosso are perfect in the extreme. MBM concertmaster Kangwon Kim will lead this from the first violin.

By the way, if you’re familiar with Peter Weir’s 2003 movie Master and Commander you’ll notice that the Corelli “Christmas” Concerto pops up a couple of times in the movie score. (You can hear the “Christmas” Concerto, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, in the Youtube video at the bottom.)

Also on the program is Telemann’s E minor quartet from Tafelmusik. Tafelmusik, literally “table music” refers to the domestic and unassuming everyday quality of the writing. Chelsea Morris (below) will also perform three movements from George Frideric Handel’s Gloria.

Chelsea Morris soprano

Other musicians featured on the program are alto Margaret Fox, tenor William Ottow, bass Luke MacMillan, violinists Brandi Berry, Nathan Giglierano, and Olivia Cottrell, violists Marika Fischer Hoyt and Micah Behr, cellists Martha Vallon and Andrew Briggs, and (yours truly) harpsichordist Trevor Stephenson.

I’ll also give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. about the music, the composers and the period instruments.

Is there something else you would like to say about the works or the performers?

I’d also like to mention that the concert will be given in the wonderful sanctuary of Madison’s First Congregational United Church of Christ. The acoustics there are absolutely terrific. Wisconsin Public Radio will be recording the concert and will broadcast it later in the holiday season, date to be announced.


Classical music: The venerable Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble opens its 18th season with fabulous Baroque music fabulously played. Plus, pianist Joyce Yang gives a FREE and PUBLIC master class Wednesday afternoon.

October 13, 2015
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ALERT: Late news comes that pianist Joyce Yang will give a FREE and PUBLIC master class for the UW-Madison School of Music on Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Play Circle of the Wisconsin Union Theater. On Thursday at 8 p.m. in Shannon Hall of the Wisconsin Union Theater, Yang will perform a solo recital of music by Domenico Scarlatti, Claude Debussy, Isaac Albeniz, Alberto Ginastera and Sergei Rachmaninoff. For more information about Joyce Yang, the concert and tickets, visit:

http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season15-16/joyce-yang.html

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT-FM 89.9. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) opened its new season in Madison with a fine concert at the Gates of Heaven on Saturday night.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble 2014

As always, the program was varied in contents and in performer involvements.

Running as a thread throughout was the artistry of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music professor and soprano Mimmi Fulmer (below center left, in a photo by John W. Barker) and mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo (below center right), a familiar team.

At intervals, they sang a pair of madrigals by Girolamo Frescobaldi (most familiar as a keyboard composer); an extended setting by Marc-Antoine Charpentier of the Miserere Psalm, with concluding lines added from the Lamentations of Jeremiah; and an Ave Maria by the really obscure Dutch composer Benedictus Buns (c.1642-1716), also known as Benedictus a Sancto Josepho.

WBE Fulmer and Sanuda JWB

The instrumentalists (Nathan Giglierano, Mary Parkinson, violins; Brett Lipshutz and Monica Steger, flutes; Eric Miller, gamba; plus cellist Anton TenWolde and Max Yount, harpsichord, as continuo) joined with them variously as appropriate, to lovely effects.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

At one extreme of texture, violinist Perkinson, supported by continuo, played a richly demanding sonata by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. At the other extreme, all the players joined in for a vivacious finale with excerpts from the Suite in E minor from the first book of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Musique de Table (Tafelmusik) anthologies.

For me, however, and I think for a lot of the good-sized audience, the real high point of the program came just after the intermission, when the two violinists, with continuo, gave an absolutely smashing rendition of the Follia Sonata, the last of the 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1, by Antonio Vivaldi. (Below in an ensemble shot by John W. Barker.)

WBE plays JWB

In this tour de force of writing, Vivaldi surpassed his model, Arcangelo Corelli’s Violin Sonata Op. 5, No. 12, whose 19 variations, cascade one virtuosic extravagance after another. (You can hear the Vivaldi’s “La Follia” sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Fabulous Late Baroque music, fabulously played!

The WBE has been giving these concerts for the past 18 years. They continue to be unpretentious but thoroughly satisfying programs of Baroque chamber music in an appropriate chamber setting. Long may they continue!

The group’s next concert in Madison will be on Sunday, Nov. 29, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

For more information visit: http://www.wisconsinbaroque.org


Classical music: The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs a program of instrumental and vocal music of 16th-18th centuries on Saturday night. Plus, tenor J. Adam Shelton gives a FREE song recital at noon on Friday.

October 7, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature tenor J. Adam Shelton and pianist Rayna Slavova in music by Robert Schumann, Lee Hoiby, Ricky Ian Gordon and Richard Hunley.

By Jacob Stockinger

The very accomplished musicians and friends at what is probably the oldest early music, period instrument and historically informed performance group in the area write to The Ear:

The Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble invites you to a concert of baroque chamber music on this Saturday night, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m. in the Gates of Heaven historic synagogue, 300 East Gorham Street, in James Madison Park in downtown Madison.

Members (below) include Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Brett Lipshutz, traverse; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Mary Perkinson, baroque violin; Consuelo Sañudo, mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger, traverse; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble 2014

Tickets will be sold at the door only: Admission is $20; $10 for students. For more information: call 608 238-5126, email at info@wisconsinbaroque.org, or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org

The program includes:

Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643): “Occhi che sète” and “Begli occhi, io non provo”

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (ca. 1620–1680): Sonata Quarta

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704): Miserere à deux dessus, deux flûtes et basse continue H 157

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Suanate da Camera, Due Violini e Violone e Cembalo, Sonata XII (Folia), opus 1 nr 12; Theme with 19 variations

Benedictus Buns (1642-1716): Ave Maria, Due Cantus cum III Instrumentis

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767): Suite in e-minor from Tafelmusik, selected movements (performed in a YouTube video at the bottom by the acclaimed Jordi Savall and the Concert des Nations). 

 


Classical music: The Madison Bach Musicians announces its new season, which includes “Messiah”

September 15, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Trevor Stephenson, the founder, artistic director and keyboardist of the Madison Bach Musicians, writes:

Dear Friends,

Summer has wound down and Madison Bach Musicians (below) is gearing up for a wonderful concert season: 2015-16 will be our 12th year. Thanks for all your support and encouragement!

Kangwon KIm with Madison Bach Musicians

We’ll open on Oct. 3 and 4 with Baroque Concertos: Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Biber, Leonardo Leo and Antonio Vivaldi.

Our Dec. 12, our Baroque Holiday Concert will feature two outstanding seasonal Cantatas by J.S. Bach (BWV 61 and 151), Arcangelo Corelli‘s Christmas Concerto (at bottom in a YouTube video), and Georg Philipp Telemann‘s Tafelmusik Quartet for baroque flute and strings.

The grand finale for the season on April 8 and 10 will be two performances of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” featuring an all-baroque orchestra, eight outstanding vocal soloists, and singers from the Madison Boy Choir (part of Madison Youth Choirs).

Season subscriptions are available until Sept. 21 — online or mail order only. Subscribers receive: Significant savings on ticket prices; priority seating in the first several rows; and invitations to special subscriber lecture events.

You can find out more information and order tickets online at our website www.madisonbachmusicians.org or mail in your season subscription order form and check. Go to “Concerts – Season Overview” on our website to print out our season brochure for the order form.

Tickets for individual concerts are also now available online and at all of our ticket outlet locations: Orange Tree Imports, Willy Street Co-op (east and west), Farley’s House of Pianos, Room of One’s Own bookstore.

We look forward to seeing you at the concerts!

For more information, visit www.madisonbachmusicians.org and www.trevorstephenson.com.

You can also call (608) 238-6092.


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