The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio has cancelled the “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” FREE chamber music series after 36 years of success. Other classical music from around Wisconsin is slated to replace it starting this fall.

May 8, 2014
29 Comments

PLEASE NOTE: Some corrections have been made from the original posting. I have noted them below in an updated version. I apologize for any inaccuracies, although the basic points remain the same.

By Jacob Stockinger

This Sunday’s edition of “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” will mark not just the end of the current season; it will also mark the end, after 36 years, of the FREE chamber music series that has been broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio throughout the state.

(Below is the Pro Arte Quartet, frequent guest performers who always attract a full-house at SAL.)

The concert series, which now reaches some 200,000 listeners across Wisconsin, will simply no longer exist. (NOTE: Potter says the actual figure is closer to 10,000, but that serving statewide listeners and not accumulating higher ratings is the motivation behind the change.)

SALProArteMay2010

Pianist Eugene Alcalay (below), who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will close out the series with a solo recital of Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner, broadcast live as usual, on this Sunday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3 of the Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, where it has attracted a full house almost every week.

(You can hear Eugene Alcalay play the first movement of the Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, “Funeral March,” Op. 35, by Frederic Chopin in a 2011 performance at the Chazen in a YouTube video at the bottom.) In the Madison area, you can hear it at WHA FM 88.7.

Eugene Alcalay

“This will be the last concert in that series for this season and forever,” said Wisconsin Public Radio’s Director of Marketing Jeffrey Potter.

The news comes just after WPR finished its successful spring pledge drive.

“The making of the decision and the timing of announcing it was not easy for us,” Potter told The Ear in a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon.

Potter also said that the decision to cancel the series was the decision solely of WPR, and not of the Chazen Museum of Art officials, although he said they understood the reasons and appreciated being kept in the loop.

Potter said the decision should not be interpreted as a sign of failure of the SAL series that started in 1978.

“The most important message to get out is that it has been a great run,” Potters said, praising the audiences, the musicians, the venue and WPR’s longtime host Lori Skelton (below).

Lori Skelton

“It hasn’t been that there is something wrong with the program,” Potter said. “It is just that Wisconsin Public Radio is also looking out for the best way to serve the public because we are the single biggest presenter of classical music in the state. We want to highlight music in Green Bay, Superior, Milwaukee, Lawrence University in Appleton, even Mills Hall at the UW-Madison.” He added that doing that would serve the Wisconsin Idea — that the borders of the university are the borders of the state — as well or even better than the current “Sunday Afternoon Live.”

“The resources we put into a live broadcast are not insignificant,” Potter said. “Live music may be exciting, but being live music doesn’t determine whether it is great music or not.”

Potter said that other forms of classical music besides chamber music, in a format yet to be determined, will replace SAL in the fall. That programming will be done by SAL host Lori Skelton working with Peter Bryant, WPR’s new director of News and Classical Music Service Peter Bryant.

The emphasis, Potter said, will be on recorded music from around the state rather than on live performances in Madison by musicians from around the state.

WPR new logo

In the meantime, WPR will follow the usual summer format. Performances by the Madison Opera’s productions of Puccini’s “Tosca” (May 17) and Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” (May 24) will occupy the next two Saturday  (NOT Sunday, as Potter originally stated) afternoon time slots, starting the weekend after the live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera end.

Potter also said the WPR would be contacting musicians (NOTE: a letter was sent to them and to the Chazen officials on Wednesday, according to Potter) and the public about the program change in the near future, starting this week and weekend. More information will soon be posted on the website www.wpr.org

NOTE: Adds Potter on Thursday: “I wanted to share the link with additional details about the decision. It can be found on the home page, right side middle of the page under the “Announcements” section. Here’s the link: http://www.wpr.org/news-about-wprs-sunday-afternoon-live-chazen

SALmicrophone sign

The decision to cancel “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” was met with disappointment and disapproval by Russell Panczenko, the longtime director of the Chazen Museum of Art.

“I was caught completely by surprise,” said Panczenko (below). “Frankly, I knew nothing about it,” he added saying he was disappointed because killing off the series would lower the profile of the free public museum statewide.

Russell Panczenko of Chazen

“A year ago said they thought might be doing something, but then at a meeting this spring where I thought they would just be discussing the next season, they came out of the blue and said they were canceling it,” Panczenko explained. “They just cancelled, no discussion.”

“I always thought it was wonderful program, not just for us but also for the people who went into the galleries after the concerts,” Panczenko added. “People also heard about the museum around the state because there was always a 7-minute promotion piece about the touring or permanent exhibitions. I thought it was a good deal all around. It was wonderful. It was the also the only live performances they regularly had.”

ChazenMusArt_open11_7430

Both Potter and Panczenko said they anticipated negative reactions and backlash from the public. But, Potter said, that is unlikely to change the decision, as happened when WPR tried to cancel live broadcasts on Saturdays from the Metropolitan Opera and tried to change Classics by Request from Saturday to Friday, then rescinded each decision.

“Anytime you have a program change and lose something, it is hard on people,” said Potter, who added that WPR gets about 36,000 emails and phone calls about programming each year.

“I don’t think we will reverse this decision despite opposition” said Potter. “We are really trying to look at the bigger picture. We want to hear opposition. But we didn’t enter in this lightly and we wouldn’t exit it lightly.”

But Potter said he wanted the public to know that the change will not lessen the amount of classical music that will be heard on WPR,

Said Potter: “We at WPR remain committed to serving our customers throughout the state. We feel that people will continue to enjoy classical music on WPR.”

If you want to leave a public opinion or statement, please use the COMMENTS section of this blog.

And don’t forget that you can copy and paste from comments to private emails and vice-versa.

Here are some contact email addresses to send WPR a message:

http://www.wpr.org/staff

Director of Radio: mike.crane@wpr.org

Director of News and Classical Music Service: peter.bryant@wpr.org

Director of Marketing: jeffrey.potter@wpr.org

Listeners or musician or even performer, what do you think about Wisconsin Public Radio killing off “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen”?

The Ear wants to hear.

 

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Classical music education: Last Sunday afternoon, we said good-bye to master music educator and Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) founder Marvin Rabin. The Ear thinks Rabin would have liked how he was celebrated and remembered.

January 2, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Last Sunday afternoon, as the winter sun was getting low in the sky and the thermometer was dropping even lower, we gathered to say good-bye to Marvin Rabin (below).

marvin rabin BW

Rabin, you may recall, died Dec. 5 at the age of 97. He was a pioneer in music education and in addition to achievements around the U.S. — especially Kentucky, Boston and Illinois — and around the globe, in 1966 Rabin came to Madison to found and direct the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which still exists and is bigger and better than ever.

Here is a link to the WYSO website with more information:

http://wyso.music.wisc.edu

The crowd, which came from both coasts and around the U.S., was at capacity, a full house on the floor and in the balcony (below) of the sleek and contemporary Atrium auditorium at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. Apparently, even more people wanted to attend the memorial but couldn’t find seats or parking.

Rabin Memorial crowd

The Ear thinks it was exactly the kind of memorial that Marvin would have liked.

I say that for several reasons.

All the speakers — from the masterful host Dick Wolf (below top), who worked besides Marvin for decades at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, and radio host son David Rubin (below bottom) to friends, admirers and former students and members of the general public — kept their remarks short, dry-eyed and to the point.

Rabin memorial Dick Wolf

David Rubin

The impromptu speakers (below) also kept the mood just right: not too serious or reverent, but leavened with wit and stories that didn’t drag on forever. In short, the mood of the memorial modeled itself on the manner of Marvin himself, at least as far as I and many others knew him.

Rabin memorial speaker

His son-in-law Frank Widman read two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke that touched on music, especially “To Music” with its fitting line: “You speech, where speeches end … Music. Space that has outgrown us, heart-space.”

But most of all, I think that Marvin — who embodied The Wisconsin Idea of reaching everyone in the state and elsewhere —  would have enjoyed all the music that was played by current WYSO students as well as former WYSO students who are now professional educators and musicians themselves. (Forgive me, but they are too many to name individually.)

Under the baton of WYSO’s music director James Smith, who directs the conducting program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the WYSO Chamber Orchestra turned in a moving and emotionally restrained performance of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

It was an appropriate choice not only for its universally appreciated sorrowful content (“the world’s saddist music”), but also because it has deep Madison ties: the world-famous work was given its world premiere in 1936 in Rome by the Pro Arte String Quartet, which has been in residence at the UW-Madison since 1940. That is what the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini heard and then asked the composer to add some string basses and orchestrate it.

Rabin memorial WYSO Chamber Orchestra

A WYSO Alumni Quartet (below, with the cellist hidden by the violist), made up of students from 1972, played the exquisite slow movement from the final string quartet, No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135, by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear it played by the Artemis Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

It proved the perfect work for the occasion because it is a work where Beethoven moves from the futuristic Romanticism and Modernism of the late quartets and returns to more formal structure of a Classical aesthetic that Beethoven worked with in his early Op. 18 quartets. Such an embracing of diverse styles was typical of Marvin no less than of Ludwig.

Rabin memorial WYSO alumni quartet

Following open-mic reflections and memories of Rabin by perhaps a half-dozen people the WYSO String Quartet played the poignant “Intermezzo Sinfonico,” arranged for string quartet, from Pietro Mascagni’s opera “Cavalleria Rusticana.”

Rabin memorial WYSO string quartet

And the final touch was a slow but elegant reading, in Hebrew, of the Kaddish, the Jewish mourner’s prayer for the dead.

And then the relatively brief memorial was over, with some refreshments and small talk, exactly the kind of elbow-to-elbow socializing, where old friends reconnect, that Marvin excelled at and relished.

Even if you didn’t know Marvin Rabin in life, you grew to know him through the memorial.

What emerged was a man who was as devoted to life-long learning as he was to life-long teaching. And the judgment was unanimous: Marvin Rabin was a man who lived his life fully out of his love of music and his love of other people.

Rabin came across in remembrance exactly as he did in life: A zesty, energetic and witty man who was immensely smart and sensitive but who wore his gifts lightly and who was also anxious, even impatient, to share them with others.

Rabin portrait USE

And we can still learn from Marvin Rabin. His accumulated wealth came from giving himself away. And we – all of us — are the rich beneficiaries of his personal and professional generosity.

Is there any thing more to add besides: The world needs more Marvin Rabins – the more, the better; and the sooner, the better.


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