The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Festival Choir of Madison closes its season TONIGHT with a concert of East Asian music from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan

May 18, 2019
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ALERT: Today and next Saturday, Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Music in Wisconsin” program, hosted by Lori Skelton, will air recorded performances from the past season by the Madison Opera. Both broadcasts start at 1 p.m. This week’s opera is the double bill of one-acts “Cav/Pag,” as Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Paglicacci” are known. Next week will see Antonin Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” with the famous soprano aria “Song to the Moon.”   

IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

The Festival Choir of Madison (below) will present the last concert of the season, “Jasmine Flowers,” TONIGHT — Saturday, May 18 — at 7:30 p.m. in the Atrium auditorium of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, in Madison.

The choir and its artistic director, Sergei Pavlov (below right in front row), will perform arrangements of famous songs such as the Japanese “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom), arranged by the late Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (his version is heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); and “Mo-Li-Hua” (Jasmine Flower), a popular Chinese folk song used variously as a national anthem and for the Olympics, arranged by the leading Korean composer Hyo-won Woo.

The choir will also feature other recent compositions sung in Taiwanese, Korean, Chinese, English and French  — including works by Chen Yi, Libby Larsen, Bob Chilcott, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel — inspired by the musical traditions of East Asia.

Admission, with general seating, is $10 for students, $15 for senior citizens, and $20 for adults, with tickets available at the door the day of the concert. Tickets can also be purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets at:

https://www.festivalchoirmadison.org/concerts/2019/5/18/jasmine-flowers

The Festival Choir of Madison is an auditioned, mixed-voice volunteer choir of over 50 experienced singers. The choir performs thematic concerts of artistically challenging choral music from around the world for listeners who enjoy traditional, modern and eclectic works, and for singers who enjoy developing their talents with others.

To learn more about the Festival Choir of Madison, go to www.festivalchoirmadison.org.


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Classical music: The third annual Madison New Music Festival features three world premieres and 25 composers, and takes place this weekend with three concerts

August 7, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a good year for new music in Madison, which has often seemed inhospitable to that music in the past.

Among major contributors have been the LunART Festival of contemporary women composers; programs by the UW Symphony Orchestra and other UW-Madison groups and individuals; the Madison Opera; the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; the Willy Street Chamber Players; and the Oakwood Chamber Players. Plus, The Ear is sure there are many other contributors he is overlooking.

But the largest share of the credit has to go to a three-day annual festival of living composers that will take place for the third year this coming weekend. (Photos from last year’s well-attended festival are by Max Schmidt.)

Here is an announcement from the festival with the details:

The third annual Madison New Music Festival will take place this coming Friday, Aug. 10, Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12.

The Madison New Music Festival is an annual weekend-long concert series dedicated to strengthening Madison’s cultural vitality through the celebration of fresh classical music from our lifetimes.

Founded by Madison native composer Zachary Green (below bottom), the festival presents new works by some of the world’s leading living composers, shines a spotlight on new music created in Wisconsin, and shares underplayed music of the 20th and 21st centuries with the Madison community.

Every concert will also have a world premiere of music that has never been heard before. On the opening night, Conduit is performing a new piece by Kyle Tieman-Strauss called Abject. The next day, organist Tyler Jameson Pimm premieres his new piece Psalm 22. Then on Sunday, listeners get to hear the premiere of They’re Still Here by BC Grimm, featuring music for nine different instruments (all of which will be played by Grimm himself).

Over the course of three concerts around town, we are featuring a total of 17 musicians playing the works of 25 composers, all of which were written in the last 50 years.

Though each concert has a different theme, every performance features music by Wisconsin composers, composers of color, and both men and women.

Fifteen of our musicians were born, raised or currently reside in Wisconsin, but we’re bringing several back to town just for the festival. They include members of the Madison, Milwaukee and Quad City symphonies; and graduates of Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes Conservatory, Northwestern University, and, of course, the UW-Madison.

We invite you to join us for the following three concerts:

CONCERT 1: Sounds of the ‘60s and Beyond – Friday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m.

Hear sounds born out of the ’60s counterculture with works exploring minimalism, social and political engagement, and electronic experimentation, as well as the music they inspired for decades to come. There will be a cash bar, as well as opportunities to explore the exhibits.

Where: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA), 227 State Street

Who: Caitlin Mead, soprano; Heather Zinninger Yarmel, flute; Kristina Teuschler, clarinet; Jeremy Kienbaum, viola; Alex Norris, violin, and Zou Zou Robidoux, cello; and Conduit (below, Zach Manzi, clarinet and Evan Sadler, percussion).

Program: Music by Melissa Dunphy, Angelica Negron, Evan Williams, Steve Reich, Gilda Lyons, Anna Meadors, Kyle T. Strauss, David Lang and Andy Akiho

CONCERT 2: Sounds of Reflection – Saturday, Aug. 11, at 2 p.m.

The festival continues with an afternoon program invoking spirituality, morality and reflection. Organ interludes will be interspersed throughout the program of vocal and instrumental music.

Where: Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave.

Who: Greg Zelek, Madison Symphony Orchestra organist (below); Jeremy Kienbaum, viola; Satoko Hayami, piano; Tyler Pimm; organ; Kristina Teuschler, clarinet; Alex Norris, violin; Micah Cheng, cello; Caitlin Mead, soprano; and Scott Gendel, piano.

Program: Music by Toru Takemitsu, Trevor Weston, Morton Feldman, Daniel Ficarri, John Weaver, Tyler Pimm, Tania Leon, John Musto and Scott Gendel

CONCERT 3: Festival Closing Party 2018 – Sunday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.

Kick back a drink as local musician BC Grimm plays his original works for instruments from cello to Chinese Guqin zither, followed by a set of music for solo strings. Then, the musicians from all three concerts come together for a performance of the 1973 piece “Stay On It” — heard in the YouTube video the bottom — by Julius Eastman (below).

Where: Robinia Courtyard, 829 East Washington Avenue

Who: BC Grimm, Jeremy Keinbaum, Aaron Yarmel, and All Festival Performers

Program: BC Grimm, Philip Glass, Ursula Mamlok, Aaron Yarmel, and Julius Eastman

All individual concerts are $15 for general admission, $5 for students. You can also subscribe to all three concerts for $35.

For more information, please visit our website http://madisonnewmusic.org or find us on Facebook (@Madison New Music Festival) or Instagram (@madisonnewmusic).


Posted in Classical music
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Classical music education: Music con Brio gives a FREE concert this Thursday night with a world premiere and the acclaimed percussion group Clocks in Motion. Plus, two guitarists give a FREE recital on Friday at noon.

April 22, 2015
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ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, features guitarists Jaime Guiscafre (below) and Christopher Murray in music by Johann Sebastian Bach,  Moreno, Paul Hindemith, Fernando Sor, Toru Takemitsu and Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Jaime Guiscafre

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following word from Music con Brio, a local group that specializes in music education:

Greetings!

You are cordially invited to a concert featuring Music con Brio (below top) and the acclaimed Madison-based percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion this Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in Music Hall (below bottom) 925 Bascom Mall, Madison WI 53606 — NOT the Humanities building) on the UW-Madison campus at the foot of Bascom Hill.

Music con Brio 1

MusicHall2

We are proud to present the world premiere of “Illusions” by Madison composer Brad Fowler, which was commissioned specifically for this concert.

The concert is FREE and UNTICKETED.

However, parking on the UW-Madison campus can be a challenge. The UW-Madison website offers the following information: “The closest public parking to Music Hall is the Helen C. White Parking Garage at the end of Park Street.  You may also want to check the Memorial Union Lot or the Lake Street Ramp.  Please plan accordingly as parking can be challenging in this area.  There is no free parking anywhere close to Music Hall as all of the lots surrounding the building are controlled 24/7.  You can follow this link to check out the real-time parking availability in the Helen C White Garage.” http://transportation.wisc.edu/parking/lotinfo_occupancy.aspx

For more information about the various groups here are links:

For Music con Brio (below):

http://www.musicconbrio.org

Music con Brio 2

For Clocks in Motion (below):

http://clocksinmotionpercussion.com

Clocks in Motion group collage

For Sound Cloud samples of works by Brad Fowler (below):

https://soundcloud.com/composer-brad

SAMSUNG


Classical music: Pianists Peter Serkin and Julia Hsu will play works for piano-four hands by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms this Saturday night at Farley’s House of Pianos.

March 31, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Our friends at Farley’s House of Pianos write to the blog with news of a noteworthy piano concert this Saturday night:

Renowned American pianist Peter Serkin (below top) and Julia Hsu (below bottom) will perform piano, four-hand pieces by Schumann, Bizet, Mozart and more, as part of the Salon Piano Series concerts held at Farley’s House of Pianos at 6522 Seybold Road on Madison’s far west side near West Towne.

Peter Serkin

Julia Hsu

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday night, April 4 and will include an introduction by Karlos Moser (below), a retired University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of music and former longtime director of the University Opera at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Karlos Moser

The program includes: Six Etudes in the Form of Canons for Pedal-Piano, Op. 56, by Robert Schumann; Three Pieces from “Jeux d’Enfants” (Children’s Games) by Georges Bizet; the Sonata in B flat Major, K. 358, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; the Allegro ma non troppo in A minor (the dramatic and lyrical “Lebenssturme” or “Lifestorms” that you can hear in a live performance in a YouTube video at the bottom), D.947, and the Rondo in A Major, D.951, by Franz Schubert; and Four Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms.

Tickets are $45 and are expected to sell quickly. They are available online at www.salonpianoseries.org and http://www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/706809 or at Farley’s House of Pianos, (608) 271-2626.

For more information about the Salon Piano Series, visit: http://salonpianoseries.org

The distinguished American pianist Peter Serkin has performed with the world’s major symphony orchestras with such conductors as Seiji Ozawa, Daniel Barenboim, George Szell, Claudio Abbado, Eugene Ormandy and James Levine. A dedicated chamber musician, Serkin has collaborated with artists including violinist Pamela Frank and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

An avid exponent of the music of many contemporary composers, Serkin has brought to life the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Wolpe, and others for audiences around the world. He has performed many world premieres written specifically for him, in particular, works by Toru Takemitsu, Oliver Knussen and Peter Lieberson. Serkin currently teaches at Bard College Conservatory of Music and the Longy School of Music. Serkin became friends with the Farleys in 1994 when he was in town for a concert and visited the Farley’s showroom (below).

Farley Daub plays

Originally from Taiwan, Julia Hsu received scholarships to study at The Purcell School for young musicians at the age of 14. She has also studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and at the Hannover Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Germany. Julia has collaborated with conductors Fabio Panisello, Lutz Koeler and cellist Ivan Moniguetti. She was a Festival Fellow at Bowdoin Music Festival, and a scholar at the Banff Centre, Canada before she became a Piano Fellow at Bard College Conservatory of Music in 2013.

The Salon Piano Series is a non-profit founded by Tim and Renée Farley to continue the tradition of intimate salon concerts at Farley’s House of Pianos.

Upcoming concerts include the internationally acclaimed Czech pianist Martin Kasík (below top), who will play the “Moonlight” and “Les Adieux” Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven and Sonata No. 3 by Sergei Prokofiev, on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Jazz pianist Dick Hyman (below bottom) will perform on May 30 and 31, 2015, at 4 p.m. both days.

Martin Kasik w piano

dick hyman

For ticket information and concert details see www.salonpianoseries.org.

All events will be held at Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, Madison, on Madison’s west side near the Beltline, and plenty of free parking is available. It is also easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.


Classical music Q&A: Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations are modernistic like new music by Toru Takemitsu, Charles Wuorinen and Oliver Knussen, says pianist Peter Serkin, who will perform all four composers this Saturday night at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

May 3, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Few pianists have such a long history of playing both revered classics and untested new music as Peter Serkin, who has won major awards for both.

This Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Serkin (below) will return to the Wisconsin Union Theater with exactly the kind of mixed old-new program that has become his signature.

The first half of his recital features three modern or contemporary works by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, the American composer Charles Wuorinen and the British composer Oliver Knussen – the last two were written for him – and the second half features Beethoven’s epic “Diabelli” Variations.

Having taught at Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute, Serkin, who lives in Massachusetts near the Berkshire Mountains, now teaches  at Bard College in addition to playing 50 to 60 concerts a year. He says he loves teaching because of the interaction. Learning from students, he adds, is like learning from rehearsals.

Serkin also says he drawn to out-of-the-way repertoire and rarities. These days he is working on solo piano pieces by Bizet and Carl Nielsen.

Tickets for his Madison recital cost $10-$42 and can be purchased through Campus Arts Ticketing by phone at (608) 265-ARTS or in person at the Union Theater Box Office or the Vilas Hall Box Office and online at:  http://uniontheater.wisc.edu/boxoffice.html

For more information plus videos, visit: http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/Season11_12/PeterSerkin.html

Just back from concert tours to Scotland and Vienna, Serkin spoke to The Ear about the works on his upcoming recital, his approach to new music and to Beethoven, and his philosophy of programming:

Do you have new recording projects in the works?

Not really. I enjoy the recording process a lot, so I do home recordings. But they’re not for sale. These days I’m playing on a piano synthesizer and a clavichord.

You have performed in Madison several times. Do you have a reaction to the city and its audiences?

I always find it a very responsive audience, very musically informed to begin with. It is also very open to new things. There is a curiosity there about unusual music.

You have been a lifelong champion of new music. Why on this program do you mix new music with old music, especially such an iconic masterpiece as Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations?

For me, it’s somewhat natural to be up on and interested in the music of our own time. For me, new music isn’t exclusive of older music, although I tend to avoid the enshrined classics.

Some older music is very modernistic. That is the case with the “Diabelli” Variations by Beethoven (below). I included them because they are challenging and outrageous in a way. The work by Beethoven had and still has the intensity and adventurousness of new music. You need to impart some sense and coherence to it. Something that can be that daunting can be very exciting and appealing.

Is there some special approach or perspective you have on the Beethoven?

With the Beethoven, I try to come to it as something new. I have no particular take on it. I just jump in and meet the unexpected. I have played it for many years, but it always a new and fresh experience. I try to stay in touch with the outrageous aspects. Beethoven had distinct compositional ideas that were outlandish for then and are still outlandish.

There is an immensity to the Beethoven. One has a sense of the whole piece all at once, but at the same time there is a sense of jumping into the theme and variations and taking them one step at a time. There is a whole world for each one.

How do the “Diabelli” Variations compare to other works by Beethoven?

It is one of my favorite Beethoven pieces, but then there are so many. Of course, we venerate the piece because it is a remarkable achievement. But there is a fun-loving and mischievous quality that runs throughout it. It has humor and depth too, but it isn’t all deadly serious. There is a sense of lightness and possibilities, things you just can’t do but he does. That sense of playfulness really appeals to me.

How do people response to the new music you play?

There are no guarantees about how people will respond. It takes openness and good will. You have to allow for the possibility of relating to it.

Can you briefly walk us through the new music you will play from your point of view?

Oliver Knussen’s Variations, Op. 24 (1989): I have commissioned a piece of piano and orchestra from him. This is the 60th birthday year for Knussen (below). I also love to play his solo pieces, and these variations were written for me. They are very concise. He studied the “Diabelli” Variations when he was composing his own.

Charles Wuorinen’s “Adagio”: This was also written for me. It is a follow-up to a wild and energetic scherzo he wrote for me. This piece has a stillness and spaciousness to it. It lasts about 14 minutes. He is going to write a third piece for me, and then I can play them all as a suite or play sections individually.

Toru Takemitsu’s “For away”: This was written in the 1970s for Roger Woodward. But he also wrote many pieces for me. I have a real connection to Takemitsu (below) and his music. He was a great friend, and I love to play much of his music – orchestral, chamber music and solo works. It’s gratifying to keep coming back to such good music. It is it compelling and evocative.

Do you think there is more acceptance of new music today?

I’ve noticed that with many of the new composers I play that there is more acceptance. When I was young (below, Peter Serkin in 1976), Arnold Schoenberg had just died. His music was considered a forbidden difficulty. The same thing happened with the music of Messiaen, whom I have played a lot of. People didn’t know how to deal with it. Now music like that gets much more support. It is interesting to see the change.

Take Takemitsu. Only recently has he been declared a national treasure in Japan. Familiarity comes as one gets to know them. It is hard to say, but in some ways they will become standards. Now we are hearing a lot more of their music and it is performed well.


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