The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend guest violinist Rachel Barton Pine solos with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in an all-Russian program

October 17, 2019
9 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend the acclaimed Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below) makes her debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra playing Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D minor.

The concert by the orchestra (below, in a photo by Peter Rodgers) opens with Prokofiev’s Suite from Lieutenant Kijé and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9.

Performances will be held in Overture Hall, 201 State St., on Friday night, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon, Oct. 20, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall. Tickets are $19-$95. See below for details.

“There will be great discoveries in our all-Russian concert, starting with the MSO debut of virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine playing the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, a big, bold and beautiful work in its MSO premiere,” said MSO music director and conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson). Lieutenant Kijé is sure to delight you with its wonderful melodies and infectious rhythms. Shostakovich has become a favorite with our audiences, and his ninth symphony is delightfully upbeat.”

Lieutenant Kijé is the fictional protagonist of an anecdote about the reign of Emperor Paul I of Russia. The story was used as the basis of a novella by Yury Tynyanov published in 1928 and filmed in 1934, with music by Sergei Prokofiev (below). The plot is a satire on bureaucracy and is often parodied in fictional works making fun of bureaucracies, most famously in the form of the M*A*S*H television episode “Tuttle,” featuring a fictional captain of similar provenance. (You can hear the popular “Troika” episode in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Many of the themes in Violin Concerto in D minor are evocative of the native Armenia of Aram Khachaturian (below). Although the folk melodies aren’t played explicitly, one can hear the Armenian roots through the oriental essence of the scales and the rhythmic range of the featured dances. The piece won the Stalin Prize in 1941, becoming one of Khachaturian’s favorites.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 is entirely unlike his other symphonies. In fact, it completely disregards the expectations for its programmatic elements. Shostakovich’s prior two symphonies are thematically tied to the ongoing war, therefore the public presumed that the ninth symphony would be a grand culmination to Stalin and mark the end of World War II. Instead, the composer (below) produced a short, neo-classical work that generated an abundance of controversy.

ABOUT RACHEL BARTON PINE

In both art and life, violinist Rachel Barton Pine (below) – who has performed in Madison before with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra — has an extraordinary ability to connect with people.

Celebrated as a leading interpreter of great classic and contemporary works, her performances combine her innate gift for emotional communication and her scholarly fascination with historical research. She plays with passion and conviction, thrilling audiences worldwide with her dazzling technique, lustrous tone, and infectious joy in music-making.

A prolific recording artist, she has also championed the works of female composers and African-American composers.

Pine was also recently named the recipient of the Cedille Records Musical Partnership Award for her Rachel Barton Pine Foundation. The Foundation was recognized as an organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the classical music community in Chicago. Cedille noted the Foundation’s “support of the Chicago musical community’s most valuable asset — its musicians and composers.”

Pine was presented with the award by U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose son, Jim Ginsburg, founded Cedille Records. Pine began her Foundation in 2001 to provide instruments and instruction to children who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

You can read the Artist Story online about how Rachel Barton Pine overcame severe injuries and her own personal adversity to achieve her goals: https://madisonsymphony.org/19-20-artist-story-rachel-barton-pine-overcomes-adversity/

CONCERT, TICKET AND EVENT DETAILS

The lobby opens 90 minutes prior to each concert.

One hour before each performance, retired MSO trombonist and UW-Whitewater professor Michael Allsen (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience. It is free to ticket holders.

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 Prelude Discussion.

Program notes for the concerts are available online: http://bit.ly/msooct19programnotes.

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


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Classical music: Oh say, Can You See Common Sense? On Independence Day -– the Fourth of July -– let us recall how the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” has evolved. Standards of social justice and definitions of independence should also do so.

July 4, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today –- July 4, 2014 — is Independence Day in the United States.

TETRRF-00024113-001

We will celebrate with food, drink and fireworks as well as parades and social events.

But make no mistake: Our celebrations have changed, necessarily, with history.

Despite what some misdirected U.S. Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia (below top), Clarence Thomas and others think with their so-called “originalism,” we all live in history.

antonin scalia rants

Supreme Court 2010

The assumptions and interpretations of Originalism have been debunked by many scholarly professors who specialize in 18th-century American discourse and law, and whose research disproves those same assumptions and interpretations to be mistaken.

To The Ear, it is kind of like hearing the radically conservative activists of the Right Wing accuse leftists and liberals of being activist: Name-calling hypocrisy dressed up in new clothes.

Here is a link to an overview critique of Originalism, both the new and old kinds:

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/new-originalism-a-constitutional-scam

It amounts to this: Whether as individuals or a society, we all change through time.

And so justice and so does music.

The Ear recalls the movements, once fringe and now mainstream, that brought us period instrument and historically informed performances.

That is why we now hear such Baroque masters as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi so differently.

It is also why we hear many other Baroque composers and early music masters that were ignored before.

That is why we now say, “The United States is,” while before the Civil War we said “The United States are.”

Usage evolves. It has to.

That is also why we hear and sing the country’s national anthem -– “The Star-Spangled Banner” -– differently today than we once did. (below is a first edition of the national anthem from the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.)

Star-Spangled Banner first edition Clements Library University fo Michigan

Here is a line to an extended story with more details about the historical evolution of our national anthem in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/arts/music/the-star-spangled-banner-has-changed-a-lot-in-200-years.html?_r=0

Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July.

And here is the most popular version — with more than 7 million hits and many outrageous listener comments to read — of the national anthem that The Ear could find on YouTube:

 


Classical music: The Ear salutes marriage equality and the wedding of two close friends in Seattle.

August 16, 2013
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is a special day for two special people.

They are close friends of The Ear.

Their names are Rodney Hammer (below top), who is an accomplished professional interior designer, and the Rev. Michael Ingersoll (below bottom), who is the Communications and Creative Director of the expanding Center for Spiritual Living.

Rod Hammer

Michael Ingersoll

Today marks their 16th anniversary together.

It also marks their wedding day in Seattle.

Some of us have been waiting a long time for this kind of legitimate recognition to happen to gay and lesbian relationships. But when you think about it and compare it to other civil rights movements, it has not really been all that long.

Many of us never would never have guessed back in 1969, the year of the Stonewall riots and the beginning of gay liberation, that marriage equality – or same-sex marriage – would be accepted by the general public, sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court, endorsed by the President of the United States, enacted by more than a dozen states and remain a fast-rising tide by 2013.

So today I celebrate a private and personal joyous event, but also a social and historical event that these good friends, along with others, have brought me into and made me a part of. Thank you.

Cheers, I say, to them and to all the gay men and lesbian women who love each other and make a public commitment to that love, despite what various hate-mongers, bigots and misguided religious zealots try to say about that love and denigrate it as a “lifestyle” or “agenda.”

I am proud and fond of them, so I toast Rod and Michael with music.

Here is a little something as a “wedding gift” for them — a piece by George Frideric Handel that I chose precisely in order to use some of the same Christianity that has been so misused against gay and lesbian marriage to celebrate it. It is sung by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Chicago. For full effect and full fun, click on the FULL SCREEN icon so you can watch while you listen:


Classical music news: Guess what kind of classical music ruled supreme as the U.S. Supreme Court debated the merits and constitutionality of the national health care law?

June 10, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The usual session of the U.S. Supreme Court ended last Monday.

So will tomorrow – Monday, June 11 — bring the long awaited decision about the federal health care law?

Perhaps, though some observers say it could come later in June, perhaps next week.

In any case, the NPR blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently offered a behind-the-scenes look at what music is listened by the justices, especially by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who is more deeply and personally involved in classical music than you might think.

If you think about it, The Ear bets you can figure out the most popular genre facing such and august and supreme body. Think dramatic and grand.

If not, here is a link to the story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/05/15/152781760/classical-music-is-supreme-today-at-the-nations-highest-court

Of course, the tune the public sings will depend on whether the Supreme Court finds the new health care are law constitutional or not.

If the Court says yes to the law, what music should be played?

And if they say no?

The Ear wants to hear.

And what role do health and illness play in the creation and appreciation of music?


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