The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra and solo flutist Iva Ugrcic turn in polished performances of a fun program to kick off the new season

October 12, 2018
3 Comments

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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 hosts an early music show once a month on Sunday morning on WORT 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photo.

By John W. Barker

The opening concert on Wednesday night by the largely amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below top), under the baton of Steve Kurr (below bottom), was a relatively brief but pithy one, with only three short works on the program.

The opener was Autumn, the most frequently played section of the ballet The Seasons, Op. 67 (1899), by Alexander Glazunov (below) and one of the composer’s most frequently heard pieces. It is a rondo-like sequence of varied dance movements, full of lyricism and bright colors. The Middleton players dug into it with gusto.

Second came the Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 283, by the prolific 19th-century German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, below). He was conservative as a teacher and as a prolific composer.

Among his concertos, this one was his last, written just two years before his death. It is an engaging work, not notable for great ideas, but amiable, with a good virtuosic workout for the soloist.

The soloist was the Serbian-born flutist Iva Ugrcic, an absolute whiz of a player, and, among other things, a product of the UW-Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music doctoral program.  She played with super-precision and confidence, giving her instrument great personality.

Without intermission, the concert ended with the Symphony No. 100, known as the “Military,” by Franz Joseph Haydn (below). It was first played in 1794 among the composer’s “London” Symphonies during his second visit to England. But it may well have been begun while he was in Vienna, for it reflects a particular fad popular there.

This was the use in orchestral writing of an adaptation of the sounds of the Turkish Janissary band. In the second movement, whose tune was taken from an earlier chamber work of his, Haydn introduced recurrently the “Turkish” instruments (two clarinets, triangle, cymbals, bass drums) with startling effect.

At the movement’s end, a trumpet call brings these novelties back for a crashing conclusion. And then, in the fourth movement’s ending, the “Janissary” instruments return for another razzle-dazzle finish. (You can hear the fourth movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

It’s all great fun, and the orchestra players seemed to find their own enjoyment in it.

The MCO continues its steady growth as a polished and reliable ensemble — all 98 players!


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Classical music news: Let’s support the atheist Turkish pianist Fazil Say in his fight against the religious intolerance of Islam. Leave a comment of protest and support.

June 30, 2012
10 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Offhand, I can’t think of many Turkish pianists who have stood out in their interpretations of Western classical music.

But the young keyboard wizard Fazil Say (below), 42, is one of the exceptions.

Maybe the only one.

Say, who is also a composer and who plays and performs jazz, has the impressive technique — the chops if you will — plus the interpretive ability and artistic affinity to leave you deeply impressed with his reading of, say, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Ravel among others.

Just look at all the 5-star User Ratings his CDs get on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dclassical&field-keywords=Fazil+Say

Here is a link to his official fan website:

http://www.fazilsay.org/

But now it looks as if Say, who admits to being secular and to supporting a secular government in his native Turkey, will have to take up a home in exile (probably in Japan, he says) because he has been charged with the equivalent of heresy or blasphemy by Turkey’s government and threatened with arrest, trial and prison. (Below is the famed Blue Mosque in Turkey.)

Specifically, he is accuse of, and investigated for, insulting Islam, and other religions, because he Tweeted that he is an atheist. He was indicted and a trial is set for Oct. 18.

It all sounds very similar to what happened to the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (below) who was charging with libeling or insulting the Turkish government because he referred to the Armenian genocide by Turkey in 1915 — which Turkey officially denies ever took place, despite the testimony and evidence provided by many experts and historians.

After worldwide protest, Turkey dropped those charges,

Maybe the same outcome could happen for Fazil Say (below and at bottom, playing ironically Mozart’s “Turkish” Rondo).

Here are links to stories and other blogs about Say’s unfortunate predicament:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/world/europe/turkey-charges-pianist-fazil-say-over-twitter-posts.html

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100152667/fazil-say-and-turkeys-war-on-atheism/

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/06/01/turkish-pianist-charged-with-insulting-islam/

http://www.nationalturk.com/en/turkish-pianist-fazil-says-twitter-messages-to-be-investigated-in-turkey-17534

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-282207-turkish-pianist-charged-with-insulting-religious-values.html

No matter what the right-wing here says about the need for more state-sponsored religion, now you can see why the Founders wisely wanted in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to establish a wall of separation between church and state. In their own lifetimes, they had seen what the mix of religion and government or politics did in Europe and elsewhere.

So: Looks like it’s time to speak up for free speech, artistic freedom and freedom of religious in Turkey.

What do you say about Say and his plight?

Leave a note of protest and support in the COMMENTS section. Maybe it will persuade Turkish authorities to relent – although I wouldn’t count on it.

Shame on Turkey!

Shame on Islam, Christianity, Judaism and all other forms of religious intolerance and oppression!

Shame on religious zealots of all kinds in all places and at all times!


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