By Jacob Stockinger
The theme this year focuses on music in the work of William Shakespeare and the Age of Queen Elizabeth I.
You can check out all the details of the festival at: http://www.madisonearlymusic.org
The co-directors of the festival – the wife-and-husband team of singers Cheryl Bensman Rowe and Paul Rowe (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot and signaled in the answers by the initials CBR and PR) took time out from the hectic preparations to answer an email Q&A with The Ear:
How successful is this year’s 17th annual weeklong festival (July 9-16) compared to others in terms of enrollment, budgets, performers, etc.? How well established is MEMF now nationally or even internationally?
CBR: Enrollment is up this year, with over 100 people enrolled in the workshop. Shakespeare (below) and the Elizabethan era is a great draw.
Other exciting news it that MEMF is one of five organizations that was chosen to be part of the “Shakespeare in Wisconsin” celebration, which includes the touring copy of the first Folio of Shakespeare’s plays from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. It is The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, and it will be at the Chazen Museum of Art this fall. https://shakespeare.library.wisc.edu/
MEMF is definitely on the map in the early music world due to our great faculty and our concert series that features musicians from all over the country, Canada and Europe.
We are also excited to be a part of the Arts Institute on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The institute is bringing us into the modern world of Facebook, e-letters, Twitter and so much more. We also have a new program director, Sarah Marty, who is full of fresh ideas and has many new contacts in the UW and the Madison community.
What is new and what is the same in terms of format, students, faculty members and performers?
CBR: Our format has stayed the same because, after 17 seasons, it seems to be working. We are excited about everything that will be happening during the week. https://artsinstitute.wisc.edu/memf/concerts.htm
New to MEMF this year is the ensemble New York Polyphony (below). They will be performing their program “Tudor City,” featuring the music of the Church, including the sacred music of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, Christopher Tye and Walter Lambe. Their recording of this program, Tudor City, spent three weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard classical album chart. You can read more about them on their website: http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com/
To get a preview of what you will hear please visit: http://www.newyorkpolyphony.com/media2/
MEMF goes to the Movies! The Newberry Violin Band (below top) will be performing as a live accompaniment to the silent film, Elizabeth I, made in 1912. Sarah Bernhardt is the star, even though she was 68 years old when the movie was made. The music is a great sampler of many of the most famous Elizabethan composers. Ellen Hargis (below bottom) will also be singing some classic John Dowland songs. An early movie with early music! http://newberryconsort.org/watch-listen-2/
Also, we have several unique programs that have been created just for this 400th “deathaversary” year.
The Baltimore Consort (below) is returning to MEMF with a program created especially for this anniversary year, The Food of Love: Songs, Dances and Fancies for Shakespeare, which has musical selections chosen from the hundreds of references to music in the works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare had directions in his plays for incidental music used for dancing, interludes and ceremony.
Specific songs are included in the text of the plays, and these texts were set to the popular songs of the day. Very few of these were published, but there are some early survivors which were published and from manuscripts.
On Friday night we have a very unique program, Sonnets 400, a program that actor Peter Hamilton Dyer, from the Globe Theatre, conceived to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
The program is a pairing of Shakespeare’s words with Anthony Holborne’s music. Holborne was one of the most respected lutenists of his and Shakespeare’s time. Madison actor Michael Herold (below) will be reciting the narrative arc of the selected sonnets, and the music of Holborne will be played as interludes, or softly under the narration.
Recorder player and MEMF favorite, Priscilla Herreid, brought this program to our attention. Several years ago she performed with Peter in the Broadway production of “Twelfth Night,” and he told her about this pairing of music and sonnets from the Elizabethan era. Lutenists Grant Herreid and Charles Weaver will be joining Priscilla on Friday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. The pre-concert lecture –“Repackaging Shakespeare’s Sonnets” — will be given by UW-Madison Professor of English Joshua Calhoun.
Tomorrow: Part 2 of 2 — What makes Elizabethan English music special and what will the All-Festival wrap-up concert include?
By Jacob Stockinger
Violinist Wes Luke and pianist Jess Salek will perform a “passionate program”of violin and piano music called “Sonatas and Myths” tomorrow night, Friday, Oct. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive.
The program includes: the elegant and intense Sonata in G Major K. 379, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (you can hear the sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom); the fiery Sonata in C minor, Op. 45, by the 19th-century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg; and the extraordinary and unique “Myths,” Op. 30, by the 20th-century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.
There will be a reception following the program.
Tickets are $15 for the public; $10 for seniors; and $5 for students. Check or cash only will be accepted.
Information about upcoming concerts can be found on Mosaic’s website http://www.mosaicchamberplayers.com/ or you can “like” or follow Mosaic Chamber Players on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Here is some background information about the performers::
Wes Luke (below) is a violinist and educator who performs and teaches across the upper Midwest. He currently serves as the Concertmaster of the La Crosse (Wisconsin) Symphony Orchestra, the Principal Second Violinist of the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra, and a section violinist in the Madison Symphony Orchestra. He also regularly plays in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Wisconsin Philharmonic, where he has also served as Concertmaster.
Jess Salek holds degrees from Lawrence University (Bachelor of Music in piano performance) in Appleton, Wisconsin, and State University of New York at Stony Brook (Master of Music in piano performance). He has worked as Music Theory Instructor at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and as a piano instructor at Prairie Music Academy in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He also has served as a judge for piano competitions and music festivals throughout Wisconsin.
From 2009-2013, Salek (below) served as Music Director of Fresco Opera Theatre, which in 2013 received Bronze in the Performing Arts Group category in Madison Magazine’s “Best Of Madison” competition -– an award voted by fans.
He is the founder and owner of Salek Piano Studio, Inc., where he teaches a diverse group of over 45 students of all ages and levels on the west side of Madison.
Salek performs as substitute keyboardist with Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra for Concerts on the Square and Madison Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of Sound Ensemble Wisconsin (SEW), a non-profit chamber music organization in Madison, and serves as accompanist for Madison Youth Choirs, a non-profit performing group based in Madison.
Most recently, Salek founded the Mosaic Chamber Players, a professional group dedicated to performing varied chamber music programs throughout Wisconsin. The Mosaics were recently described as “among the finest purveyors of chamber music in Madison” in a review by John W. Barker for The Well-Tempered Ear blog.
Here is a poster about the upcoming season of the Mosaic Chamber Players (using the magnifying tool will help you read it):
By Jacob Stockinger
Tweets — those messages that comes via Twitter — may be short, containing a maximum of only 140 characters.
But they can sure pack a wallop and get people riled up.
Consider what is happening in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (below top, in a photo by John Loper) that canceled an appearance – with full payment of a concert fee — by the Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa (below bottom).
Lisitsa tweeted about the political situation in her native Ukraine and that apparently caused quite the stir among symphony sponsors. So the symphony canceled her performances of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – and paid her concert fee anyway. (Rachmaninoff and this concerto are specialties of Lisitsa, as you can hear on the YouTube video at the bottom)
Locally, Lisitsa — known for her power, endurance and phenomenal technique as well as her savvy use of YouTube to establish a career — has played several times at the Wisconsin Union Theater and at Farley’s House of Pianos.
Then the Toronto Symphony tried to engage pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear (below), who is famous for doing marathons in which he plays all 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven in one day. He has performed several times with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.
Anyway, here is a terrific account of the story — with great reporting and writing from Anastasia Tsioulcas — that was posted on Deceptive Cadence, the outstanding classical music blog that is on NPR (National Public Radio).
Here is the link:
What do you think of this dust-up?
Was Lisitsa treated fairly?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear recently came across this news item — reprinted below.
He remembers when Wisconsin Public Radio, under the direction of its former music program director Cheryl Dring, marked the annual birthday of Baroque master composer Johann Sebastian Bach (below). At bottom you can hear almost two hours of Bach’s best and most popular music — from solo piano to orchestra — in YouTube video that has almost 10 million hits.
The noon-to-midnight event was called “Bach Around the Clock” (below) and was based on an event that Dring used to go to in New Orleans, Louisiana. It featured singers and choral music, instrumental music of all kinds and at all levels, and audiences who wandered in and out as well as a special birthday cake for The Birthday Boy.
The FREE and PUBLIC event took place in the Pres House, 731 State St., near the UW-Madison School of Music. It featured lots of classical amateur musicians – including The Ear who played solo piano works and also collaborated with a flutist – but also professional musicians, including members of the UW-Madison School of Music,UW-Whitewater, Edgewood College, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber orchestra the Madison Bach Musicians and its keyboardist founder and director Trevor Stephenson, church organists and various choral groups. It was also webcast live by WPR.
I wrote about it every year, and was also surprised and pleased by the quality of the music-making I heard from young students through adult amateurs and of course professional musicians. I loved it, both as a participant and as an audience member.
Here are some links with lots of photos:
But Wisconsin Public Radio backed out of the celebration after four years, citing weekend staff time and expense. No one stepped in to pick it up, though I suppose you could make the case that the “Make Music Madison” citywide event of the past two summers took up the baton. But that event includes all kinds of music — not just classical and not mainly classical and not just Bach.
Now there is a similar populist movement nationwide and even worldwide, but based in New York City, to mark Bach’s birthday. It is called “Bach in the Subways” and started several years ago. Since then it has been growing.
My question now is: Who, if anybody, will host the Madison event in this movement in 2015 and in coming years?
The UW-Madison has the School of Music, including Morphy Hall (below) and Music Hall as well as Mills Hall.
The centrally located Pres House, which also features an organ, a piano, a low-profile stage, many chairs and good acoustics as well as a dining room for snacks and socializing, is an excellent candidate.
Farley’s House of Pianos seems the kind of customer-friendly and community-helping business that might be open to the event.
Maybe there are other churches or community centers or organizations that would be willing to set this up.
Anyway, your reactions and suggestions are welcome.
And here is the original announcement I found:
CALLING ALL MUSICIANS
Bach in the Subways Day
Saturday, March 21, 2015
On J.S. Bach’s 330th birthday, musicians around the world will unite to perform Bach for free in subways and public spaces, throughout the day and night, to celebrate our art and to sow the seeds for future generations of classical music lovers.
Musicians, organizers and everyone else who wish to spread the joy of Bach are invited to join us! Solos, ensembles, flash mobs and Bach marathons are all encouraged.
Join us as we fill the world with Bach!
For more information visit http://bachinthesubways.com, facebook.com/bachinthesubways, or twitter.com/bachinthesubway. (The list of participants on the main website says that Madison, Wisconsin, is taking part, along with many cities around the country and world. But I don’t see any specifics. Does anyone know the details of the local celebration?)
For more information, write to email@example.com.
Need inspiration? Free Bach scores (in the public domain), as well as transcriptions for many solo instruments and a wide variety of ensembles, are available at www.imslp.org
Meanwhile, here are almost two hours of popular music by J.S. Bach to listen to:
ALERT: Just a reminder that there is a lot of live music competing for audiences this afternoon. But if you can, be sure to catch the UW-Madison Pro Arte Quartet and guest clarinetist Charles Neidich giving the FREE second world premiere performance of American composer Pierre Jalbert‘s Clarinet Quintet — which is based on Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” — at the Chazen Museum of Art at 12:30 p.m. in Brittingham Gallery 3. The new work, which The Ear heard on Friday night, is the real thing: a winning gem of new music. Of course the short-sighted Wisconsin Public Radio is no longer broadcasting local and regional live music from the museum, so forget the radio. But you can stream the concert live from the Internet at the museum’s website www.chazen.wisc.edu.
And here is a link with an overview of all the music concerts available this afternoon:
Well, here is another reason to welcome the end of the work week and the coming of the weekend.
NPR is saying TGIF.
Every Friday afternoon, the Deceptive Cadence blog folks at National Public Radio gather with the public via Twitter to check out issues and performers, performances and recordings — including the new CD “Motherland” by pianist Khatia Buniatishvili (the Sony Classical CD cover with her Frida Kahlo-like portrait is below and a sample is at the bottom in a YouTube video in which she plays an arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s “Sheep May Safely Graze“). You should try checking it out and add your own comments and recommendations.
And that’s just what you can do using the link below:
The Ear thinks you will like it for several reasons.
The discussion keeps you updated on new recordings, new performers and new music. But it also suggests older composers and repertoire to listen to, including recommended interpretations of that repertoire.
It also features some very insightful and some very funny comments from other readers and followers that you can check out.
So don’t be afraid to hop on in – or at least to add to your To Do List checking out Deceptive Cadence at NPR every Friday.
By Jacob Stockinger
But here is something of a substitute, or at least an addendum or supplement, to that event to celebrate the great Johann Sebastian (below).
It is an urgent but polite request, a direct solicitation from radio host Rich Samuels (below), who writes:
“I’m preparing a special Bach’s Birthday edition of the Thursday 5-8 a.m. classical music program I host on WORT 89.9 FM, which will air, of course, on March 21. (WORT’s headquarters at 118 South Bedford Street in Madison is pictured below.)
“I’m hoping to include pre-recorded segments featuring performances by local Bach lovers. (I have the capability to make broadcast-quality recordings in the field).
“If you know of anyone who would like to participate in this joint effort, please let me know.”
Rich Samuels, WORT, 118 South Bedford Street, Madison WI 53703
Here is more contact information:
By way of details, Samuels adds:
“You can mention my effort whenever you wish. I’d like to get the recordings made in February. Of course, I have no idea how many people want to participate in this effort.
Participants will have to provide their own instruments, page-turners and performances spaces (but they are probably clever enough, in the case of keyboard artists, to have access, somewhere, to a well-tuned piano or harpsichord).
It’s probably best for people to contact me via this email address, so we can work out times and places.
My goal since I began hosting this show a couple of years ago is to feature local performers as much as possible.
A REMINDER: The annual “New Year’s Day Concert From Vienna” (below) with the Vienna Philharmonic under conductor Franz Welser-Most and with TV host Julie Andrews will air this morning on NPR (and Wisconsin Public Radio) at 10 a.m. this morning with the TV version airing tonight on PBS (and Wisconsin Public Television) at 7 p.m. For more information and links to a play list of Strauss family waltzes and polkas plus works by Verdi and Wagner and lots of background, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
Today, Jan. 1, 2013, is New Year’s Day.
The past year was not an easy year in so many ways.
Especially disappointing is the increasing polarization or partisanship one sees not only in the US but also around the world. I myself fear for the rise of right-wing fanaticism (often signaled by hatred of immigrants, a callousness toward social welfare and the oppression of minorities) in Greece and elsewhere because of economic situations. Economic strife often leads to war or other forms of strife and suffering. (Below is a CNN photo of an austerity protest riot in Greece.)
One can only hope for much better in 2013.
So that makes this “flash mob” performance of Beethoven (below) all the more appropriate and moving. It certainly was an emotional experience for and for the very old friend who sent it on to me — as well as for the more than 8 million viewers so far on YouTube.
It is the perfect piece – or, to be precise, the perfect excerpt of the perfect piece – in words and music — performed in a perfect way that was commissioned by Banco Sabadell in Barcelona to mark its 130th anniversary, I believe.
It gives one hope – especially at a time when Spain, like so many other countries, in undergoing the trials, tribulations and testing of austerity.
Judge for yourself – be sure to look at the facial expressions of the children and the ordinary people who just pass by and stop to take it all in. You can see that great music connects and bonds.
And let us know what you think by leaving something in the COMMENTS section.
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:
Here is a link to his official fan website:
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:
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!