The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This week’s “Just Bach” concert on Wednesday afternoon features Halloween fare as well as instrumental and vocal music typical of Johann Sebastian

October 29, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

BOO!!

But this time it’s all treat and no trick!

This month’s FREE concert in the new midday series of Just Bach (below, in a photo by John W. Barker) falls on Wednesday – that is, on Halloween!

In keeping with the spooky holiday, this week’s Just Bach concert will feature one of the traditional pieces of classical music used on Halloween: the mighty and well-known Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ. (You can see an abstract and fascinating animated graphic depiction of the work in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

The FREE concert runs from 1 to 2 p.m. at Luther Memorial Church (below) at 1021 University Avenue. The audience is permitted to eat lunch and drink refreshments during the midday concert.

Two other works are on the program.

One is the Suite No. 5 in C minor for solo cello, played by James Waldo (below). A discerning friend of The Ear heard Waldo play a different solo cello suite at a concert last month by the Madison Bach Musicians, and said it was probably the finest interpretation he had ever heard. And he has heard a lot of them.

The last work will be the Cantata No. 163 “Nur Jedem das Seine,” or “To Each His Own,” with singers and instrumentalists performing on period instruments with historically informed performance practices.

For information about the series, go to: https://justbach.org

Specifically, if you want to know more about the dates and programs, go to:

https://justbach.org/concerts/

And if you want to know more about the performers, go to: https://justbach.org/about-us/

Finally, if you want to know more about the background and genesis of the new concert series, here is a link to a previous post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/?s=Just+Bach


Classical music: Organist Greg Zelek, of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will give a FREE celebratory recital at First United Methodist Church this coming Tuesday night

November 10, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

“Greg Zelek (below), the new principal organist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Curator of the Overture Concert Organ and Series, will present a FREE public organ recital on this coming Tuesday night, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, in downtown Madison.

“The evening’s program of masterpieces includes: the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, by Johann Sebastian Bach; the Organ Sonata in F minor, Op. 65, No. 1, by Felix Mendelssohn; the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543, by J.S. Bach (heard performed by Zelek in the YouTube video at the bottom); and the Organ Sonata in D minor, Op. 42, No. 1, by Alexandre Guilmant.

“A public reception follows the recital where people can share their thoughts about the program and meet the artist.

“Zelek says he relishes the creative aspect of playing the organ. Because no two instruments are alike, every time he sits down at a new console he reinvents the repertoire that he has played thousands of times for that specific instrument and that specific space.

“Zelek adds: “It gives me the opportunity to be as creative as possible when it comes to the selecting of different sounds and colors for each individual instrument and composition.”

“The First Church organ console (below top), as well as the one (below bottom) at the Overture Center, is in front of the audience, offering the organist opportunities to interact and engage with them.

“I speak to the audience in between pieces,” Zelek explains. “Having a greater understanding of the music sheds light onto its immense beauty and enhances the listener’s appreciation of the performance.

“The organ is also such a physical instrument. When the audience can see what the organist is doing, it draws everybody in. There is so much going on. It’s not just the hands and the feet, but also the different buttons we’re pushing and sounds we’re generating from the instrument. It is a full body workout when I play! The audience should never be bored.”

“Zelek’s recital is part of the 180th anniversary celebration of First United Methodist Church as well as the 25th anniversary of its Austin organ.

“Admission for the recital is FREE with donation envelopes available to support The Arts program at First Church. The church has a deep tradition in featuring varied musical offerings and provides much needed rehearsal and performing space for local music and performing arts groups.”


Classical music: This weekend the Madison Symphony Orchestra opens its new season with Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony and music by Bach. It also highlights principal violist in music by Berlioz

September 13, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming weekend, the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO, below in a photo by Peter Rodgers), with music director John DeMain conducting, opens its 92nd season with a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

The season-opening concert also showcases the Madison Symphony Orchestra as an ensemble with no guest soloist. The MSO’s Principal Violist Chris Dozoryst (below) will solo in Hector Berlioz’sHarold in Italy.”

Also featured is Leopold Stokowski’s famous orchestral arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation will be honored with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony.

The concerts in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street, are on Friday night, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m., and Sunday afternoon, Sept. 17, at 2:30 p.m.

Ticket information is below.

According to the MSO press release: “The concerts present the music of two composers who shared a deeply spiritual relationship with the Lutheran faith, and passion for music. It is said that Johann Sebastian Bach set faith to music, and Felix Mendelssohn clarified faith for all to hear.

MSO Music Director John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) chose to pair Bach and Mendelssohn specifically for this program.

“Both Bach (below top) and Mendelssohn (below bottom) were devout Lutherans, Mendelssohn having converted from Judaism when he was 12 years old,” DeMain says.

“I decided to open the season with Leopold Stokowski’s great transcription of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ, and then give the first performance by the MSO of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, subtitled the Reformation. Indeed, this symphony quotes extensively from one of the greatest Christian hymns of all time — “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.””

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor is a transcription for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski (below) and became well-known after its inclusion in Disney’s film Fantasia. The piece was originally cut from the theatrical release of the film, but was later added back in a 1946 re-release and included Stokowski directing the orchestra at the beginning of the piece. (You can hear the original version for organ, with an unusual graphic display, in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Hector Berlioz’sHarold in Italy” is considered an autobiographical vignette recounting the composer’s Italian experience. The piece is filled with youthful vitality, tinged with an appealing Romantic sensibility that Berlioz (below)  borrowed freely from literature, most specifically Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.” Playing the solo viola part is MSO’s Principal Violist Chris Dozoryst.

The 2017–18 season will mark Christopher Dozoryst’s 10th season as principal viola with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. In addition to his orchestral duties, Chris also performs with the MSO’s HeartStrings Program as violist with the Rhapsodie Quartet. He also performs and records, working locally and regionally in Madison and Chicago. He has performed numerous engagements with well-known musicians including Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and Smokey Robinson.

Originally commissioned in 1830 for a celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, Mendelssohn honors Martin Luther (below) in his Symphony No. 5Reformation” by including in the finale the beloved hymn Ein’ feste Burg is unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) that Luther had written while the Augsburg Confession was in session. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the establishment of the Lutheran Church.

One hour before each performance, Amy Hartsough (below), acting director of music at Bethel Lutheran Church, will lead a FREE 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.

For more background on the music, please read the Program Notes by MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen at: http://www.allsenmusic.com/NOTES/1718/1.Sep17.html.

The MSO recommends that concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the pre-concert talk (free for all ticket-holders).

Single Tickets are $18-$90 each and are on sale now at https://www.madisonsymphony.org/singletickets, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.

Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, go to: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.

Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $18 tickets.

More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush

Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.

Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.  

Major funding for the September concerts is provided by: the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison.com, Rosemarie and Fred Blancke, Capitol Lakes, The Gialamas Company, Inc., Marvin J. Levy, Nancy Mohs, and Peggy and Tom Pyle. Additional funding is provided by: DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., Forte Research Systems and Nimblify, the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, and the federal National Endowment for the Arts.


Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra names Greg Zelek as its new principal organist

June 30, 2017
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following important news:

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) has announced that Greg Zelek (below) will become Principal Organist and Curator of the Overture Concert Organ, beginning Sept. 1, 2017.

Zelek will succeed Samuel Hutchison, who retired after 16 years in the position. Hutchison will remain active in an advisory role during the transition to his successor.

MSO Music Director John DeMain said “Greg Zelek’s decision to move to Madison and become our principal organist, is a testimony to the international reputation both the instrument and organ programs have gained in the past 12 years. Greg is simply a phenomenal virtuoso on the instrument and will be a wonderful addition to the symphony, the organ program, and the community.”

Samuel Hutchison (below) said:  “Greg comes to Madison as one of the brightest lights of a new generation of concert organists. His effortless facility at the organ console coupled with highly creative programming ideas will provide great excitement for our organ audiences. I anticipate his tenure with great enthusiasm as he launches the new season of organ concerts with his inaugural recital on August 26.”

Greg Zelek is recognized as one of the most exciting young organists in the American organ scene. The South Florida Classical Review praised Zelek for his “effortless facility on the instrument.” He has performed with orchestras as both a soloist and professional ensemble member throughout the US, including appearances with the Miami Symphony Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.

He was the organist in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Faust, and performed twice with the New World Symphony, including a performance of Lukas Foss’s Phorion, under Michael Tilson Thomas. Zelek was chosen by The Diapason magazine as one of the top “20 Under 30” organists in 2016, a feature which selects the most successful young artists in the field.

Zelek has appeared in multiple venues throughout the US, including a performance of Cochereau’s Bolero for Organ and Percussion in Alice Tully Hall. He closed the WQXR Bach Marathon at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, which was streamed live on New York City’s only classical music station.

A proponent of new music for the organ, Greg (below) has premiered and performed works by fellow Juilliard composers and faculty, including Wayne Oquin’s Reverie and Samuel Adler’s Partita for Organ in concerts. Awards he has received include First Prize in both the 2012 Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition and the 2012 West Chester University Organ Competition, and selection as a 2010 NFAA Young Arts Silver Medal Winner.

He won First Prize, as well as the “Bach Prize,” at the East Carolina University Organ Competition, and was a prizewinner in the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival. Most recently, Greg was the Audience Prize winner and finalist in the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition. (You can hear Greg Zelek perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Greg’s engagements have included serving as the Music Director and Organist at the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy in New York City; Organ Scholar at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, New York; Music Director of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Miami; and summer organist for San Pedro Apostol Church in Ramales de la Victoria, Spain.

He is completing an Artist Diploma as a student of Paul Jacobs at the Juilliard School. A recipient of the inaugural Kovner Fellowship, Greg also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard.

Zelek is enthused about the opportunity and says. “I’m deeply honored to have received this unique opportunity with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to building on Sam Hutchison’s outstanding work of promoting and elevating the art of organ music in performance and the magnificent Klais organ (below) to new heights.”


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s third annual Organ Three-For-All takes place at Overture Hall this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Plus, the Impresario Student Opera makes its debut with a FREE all-Mozart concert on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m.

January 22, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Recently retired Bethel Lutheran Church Director of Music and Worship Gary Lewis (below left), Luther Memorial Music Director Bruce Bengtson (below center), and Madison Symphony Orchestra Principal Organist and Curator Samuel Hutchison (below right) will perform the third installment of an organ Three-For-All.

2016 Organ Three-For-All Gary Lewis, Bruce Bengston and Samuel Hutchison

The concert is this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., in Overture Hall, where the three men will perform on the Klais Concert organ.

Overture Concert Organ overview

Tickets are $20.

For more information including the complete program –which includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach (the famous and dramatic Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which you can hear at bottom with an unusual and arresting bar graph in a YouTube video that has almost 26 million hits), Dietrich Buxtehude and Camille Saint-Saens — visit this link:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/threeforall

A NEW STUDENT OPERA COMPANY

Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below), the versatile musician who founded the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO) while he was in high school and who, now while studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, conducts, plays the viola, sings and writes reviews for this blog, has sent the following word:

Mikko Utevsky with baton

Dear friends,

I am conducting an all-Mozart concert this Sunday night, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

mozart big

The program, which opens with the famous “Haffner” Symphony (No. 35 in D major, K. 385), is also the debut of Impresario Student Opera, a new company of which I am the music director. (NOTE: You can hear the robust first movement of the “Haffner” Symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted by the late Claudio Abbado, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

We are, fittingly, presenting Mozart’s one-act German-language SingspielDer Schauspieldirektor” (“The Impresario”), plus the scene “Il core vi dono” from “Così fan tutte,” conducted by Dennis Gotkowski, with a cast of five excellent graduate singers and a small student chamber orchestra.

Below in rehearsal are (left to right are sopranos Anna Polum and Nicole Heinen, tenor Jiabao Zhang, mezzo-soprano Meghan Hilker, seated, pianist Dennis Gotkowski, and conductor Mikko Rankin Utevsky. Not pictured is baritone Gavin Waid.)

Impresario Opera rehearsing

The program is FREE, with donations accepted to support the new company.

I hope to see you there!

Mikko


Classical music: The Madison Symphony Orchestra will present FREE organ concerts in Overture Hall on three Farmers’ Market Saturdays this summer. The first one is this Saturday, June 21, at 11 a.m. The two others are on July 19 and August 9.

June 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will host FREE performances on the custom-built Overture Concert Organ (below top) during the Dane County Farmers’ Market (below bottom) on three Saturdays -– June 21, July 19, and Aug. 9 –- all at 11 a.m.

Overture Concert Organ overview

dane county farmers' market

The concerts will take place in Overture Hall, 201 State Street. NO tickets or reservations are needed for these 45-minute concerts featuring MSO organist and curator Samuel Hutchison, as well as guest organists Ahreum Han and Donald VerKuilen.

Here are more details:

June 21: Samuel Hutchison (below), the MSO’s principal organist and curator, presents a program entitled “Bach’s Lunch”, featuring the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Favorites including the famous and popular  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, used in the Walt Disney movie “Fantasia” (and available at the bottom in a popular animated YouTube voice that has more than 22 million hits) and a transcription of the Air on the G-String are among other items on the program.

Sam Hutchison  close up

July 19: Korean organist Ahreum Han (below) brings a delightful program to Overture Hall in her first recital on the Overture Concert Organ. A graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Han is known throughout the US, Asia, and Europe for her imaginative, powerful, and extraordinary performances.

Ahreum Han

Aug. 9: Wisconsin native and current Oberlin College organ performance major Donald VerKuilen makes his Overture Hall debut in an exciting program of music by Charles-Marie Widor, Bonnal, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Langlais. He recently returned from a concert tour of French organs, and is certain to bring the same magic to the colossal Klais organ in Overture Hall.

Donald VerKuilen

To see the Overture Concert Organ series of concerts for 2014-15 or to subscribe at a 25 percent savings, visit:

www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason14-15

The Madison Symphony Orchestra and Overture Center for the Arts present the Farmers’ Market Concert Series in partnership with 77 Square.

The Free Farmers’ Market Concerts are generously sponsored by Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.

 


Classical music: Happy Halloween! Vote for the spookiest classical music you know.

October 31, 2012
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ALERT:  On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Wind Ensemble Chamber will perform a FREE concert of “Integrales” b, Edgard Varese; “Rondino” by Ludwig von Beethoven; and Kammersymphonie (Chamber Symphony), Op. 9, by  Arnold Schoenberg. Scott Teeple (below) is the conductor and Scott Pierson is the guest conductor.

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Oct. 31, 2012, is Halloween in the U.S., although many celebrations took place last Saturday night to benefit from the weekend.

It is the night of scary hobgoblins and ghosts. It is also the time when disguises and costumes often reveal rather than hide one’s true identity.

But most of all it is a chance for spooky art – Houses of Horrors, Ghost stories and Horror Movies – and The Ear wants to know what you think is the scariest or spookiest music ever written.

For many people, it is Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” Here is a link to one performance on YouTube:

The Ear knows one person who likes to play loud organ music – Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – for young Trick-or-Treaters. And he is not alone. Take a look and listen at various versions of the famous organ piece at NPR’sDeceptive Cadence” blog where you’ll be treated, not tricked, by the blog’s makeover and new appearance:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/10/29/163701843/halloween-fright-five-versions-of-that-terrifying-toccata-and-fugue

You can also hear Halloween-related music today on Wisconsin Public Radio, especially on The Midday (noon to 1 p.m.), which will, I expect, have a Quiz Question related to Halloween. For information or to stream programs, visit ww.wpr.org.

I recently heard a wonderful and absorbing  live performance by the all-student University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra of the famous “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz (below)that includes hallucinatory drugs and a death march to the scaffold and gallows.

And I was struck how the clarinets are used to create a very eerie, even frightening sound, in the Witches Sabbath section. It is a masterful use of orchestration by Berlioz.

Take a listen and let me know.

What do you think is the spookiest or eeriest piece of classical music for Halloween?

Vote for your favorite by leaving a COMMENT in the blog section of this blog, preferably with a link a YouTube performance, if possible.

 


Classical music: Pianist Stephen Hough talks about his outstanding new recording and why French music sounds lusciously French.

October 27, 2012
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Stephen Hough (below) is a much acclaimed, prize-winning pianist, the first instrumentalist ever to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Hough has just released another recording. He is, to be sure, a prolific recording artist with so many titles and so few duds.

As often happens with Hough, it is in the sampler format. This one is called “The French Album.” (He has also done Spanish, English and  Mozart albums. Hmmm… what I wonder what he would include on The German Album?)

The mostly terrific new CD (below) features works by many composers you would expect as well as some you might not, including Ravel, Debussy and Faure to say nothing of Chaminade, Delibes and Chabrier. It also includes some non-French music that was arranged by the famous 20th-century French pianist Alfred Cortot, and some music by Massenet that Hough himself arranged. (Hough is a composer who recently premiered his own Piano Sonata No. 2.)

The Ear has listened to the CD and finds it typical of Hough’s excellence in the way he combines through absolutely first-rate technique and deep musical sensitivity, always bringing together clarity and lyricism.

There are only a couple of places where I think he went wrong. The biggest is wasting 8 minutes on the transcription by Cortot (below) of J.S. Bach’s famously dramatic and popular Toccata and Fugue in D minor for the piano.

Just the one Cortot transcription of the soulful but short slow movement from Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F Minor would have done the job. And hearing the famous “Clair de lune” of Debussy by itself is a bit pandering and incomplete, though it will surely help the CD sell. Better that Hough should have played a Debussy prelude like “Sounds and Perfumes.”

Similarly, I really wonder whether the flashy Liszt concert paraphrase of melodies from the opera “La Juive” by Fromenthal Halevy qualifies as French music. I don’t think so, except perhaps in some distant etymological sense. Again, I would rather hear more of Hough’s exquisite Faure or Ravel or Debussy, or even maybe early French keyboard music like Couperin or Rameau, which would surely benefit for his clarity.

I would much rather have heard something else truly French and truly unknown. That is why I especially like his recording of relatively unknown works by Alkan (at bottom) and Poulenc.

Last weekend, Hough was interviewed by host Guy Raz (below) on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and he spoke eloquently and humorously about the new recording for Hyperion. He even touched descriptively on what makes French music sound French to us – especially if, like The Ear, you are a devout Francophile.

That is, why is French music – like French Impressionist painting – always seems to us Americans, Brits and Germans so sexy or at least sensual, with just the right soupcon of illicitness and sin.

Well, what do expect from the same culture that brought us haute couture and haute cuisine as well as Proust and Baudelaire, French kissing and French cut underwear? It is all part of what The Ear calls “The Souffle Aesthetic” that relies on “more air than egg.” And stylistically it never fails to seduce and charm.

As retro-spy novelist and fellow Fracophile Alan Furst (below) has written, The French like three things: reason, beauty and little things done well.

Voila!!!!

It is an interview that you might want to hear, especially if you live in a city like Madison where Hough has played and conducted master classes several times. He is a supremely articulate thinker as well as a supremely gifted pianist.

Here is a link to that NPR interview with Raz:

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/21/163252853/stephen-houghs-french-album-a-musical-dessert-trolley

And here is a link to Hough’s personal blog of the British newspaper The Telegraph. Hough is a curious and exploratory being, an openly gay man who converted to Catholicism at 19 and who writes about many things besides music and piano playing, although he also is offering tips about playing the piano in an installment form.

It is all enough to make Hough perhaps the most interesting pianist on the planet since he also rises way above just wiggling his fingers well:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/author/stephenhough/

Enjoy!

And be sure to leave a COMMENT about what you like and don’t like about Stephen Hough; about his recordings including his new one; and about his blog.

The Ear wants to hear.


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