The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: UW oboist Aaron Hill performs world premieres and little known composers in a FREE recital Sunday afternoon

October 20, 2017
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

This is Homecoming weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it is busy on many counts, including several classical music concerts in the city on Sunday afternoon.

But one of the more intriguing is a FREE recital at 3 p.m. in Mills Hall by UW-Madison Professor Aaron Hill (below), who teaches oboe and also performs in the Wingra Woodwind Quintet.

Hill will be joined by collaborative pianist Daniel Fung (below), who is also a vocal coach at the Mead Witter School of Music at the UW-Madison.

Particularly noteworthy is the number of world premieres and relatively unknown contemporary composers on the program.

Here is the program:

“Poem,” for oboe and piano (1953) by Marina Dranishnikova (1929-1994, below). (You can hear it in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Oboe Sonata (1947) by Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)

  1. Gently Flowing
  2. Sicilienne
  3. Allegro

Intermission

* Soliloquies (2013) by Andre Myers (b. 1973)

  1. To be or not to be
  2. There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance
  3. In the Month of May
  4. Spring Discourse

   * world premiere performance

* After Manchester (2017) Aaron Hill and Michael Slon (b. 1982 and 1970, respectively) * world premiere performance

Four Personalities (2007) Alyssa Morris (b. 1984)

  1. Yellow
  2. White
  3. Blue
  4. Red

Here are some program notes by Aaron Hill:

“This program highlights five different ways to program previously unfamiliar music, as explained below.

“Poem” by Marina Dranishnikova came to me through our local community. Oliver Cardona, currently a junior music major at UW-Madison, initially brought it to my attention. The work was discovered and edited by my predecessor, Professor Marc Fink (below), during his travels in Russia.

I first heard the Oboe Sonata by Jean Coulthard (below) at the 2017 International Double Reed Society conference at Lawrence University  in Appleton, Wis.

Charles Hamann, the principal oboist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, edited and recorded it as part of a large project to bring international attention to masterpieces by Canadian composers.

Andre Myers (below) attended the University of Michigan with me and we first became acquainted when I performed one of his orchestral works. His beautiful writing for English horn started our friendship and 15 years later, he wrote his Soliloquies for me.

The first two are based on famous scenes from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The third is based on a poem by Minnesota’s first poet laureate, Robert Bly, which will be read aloud from the stage. The final movement is inspired by a dream vision he had of centaurs playing in a meadow.

“After Manchester” was originally a free improvisation I recorded and posted to social media in the wake of the terror attack at Ariana Grande’s concert on June 4, 2017.

Later in the summer, Professor Michael Slon (below), the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Virginia, transcribed my improvisation and wrote a piano part to transform it into a piece of chamber music. The work was completed just days before the violent events in Charlottesville.

Professor Alyssa Morris (below) currently teaches oboe at Kansas State University and her compositions have become widely performed as standard literature for oboists in recent years.

She wrote “Four Personalities” to perform in her own undergraduate recital at Brigham Young University and I first heard it while searching for oboe music on YouTube. The piece is based on the Hartmann Personality Test.

In her words, the colors correspond to the following types:

Yellow: Yellow is fun-loving. The joy that comes from doing something just for the sake of doing it is what motivates and drives yellow.

White: White is a peacekeeper. White is kind, adaptable, and a good listener. Though motivated by peace, white struggles with indecisiveness. 

Blue: Blue brings great gifts of service, loyalty, sincerity, and thoughtfulness. Intimacy, creating relationships, and having purpose is what motivates and drives blue.

Red: Motivated by power. Red is aggressive and assertive. Red is visionary, confident, and proactive. 

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Classical music: Does Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” reveal anything about Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump”?

October 29, 2016
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

For generations, the conquests of the legendary Don Juan were treated as seductions.

But were they really rape?

The question is important in considering the masterpiece opera “ Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

don-giovanni-met-2016-simon-keeleyside

One blog writer for slate.com – Bonnie Gordon, who teaches a class on music and gender at the University of Virginia — draws a link between the charismatic historic nobleman and the current charges of “womanizing” and allegations of sexual assault made against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (below).

Donald Trump thumbs up

She doesn’t bring up whether the same discussion applies to former Democratic President Bill Clinton, but it doesn’t seem a stretch.

She raises questions about what is sexual assault, seduction and rape – and how the definitions of a “rape culture” have changed over time and depending on whether it comes from a man’s or a woman’s point of view.

She pegged her essay to LAST weekend’s broadcast performance of the opera by “Live From the Met in HD” with Simon Keenlyside in the title role. In the YouTube video at the bottom, with English subtitles, Don Juan’s servant Leporello sings an aria about his master’s thousands of “conquests.”

But despite the week that has passed since the broadcast of the production, to The Ear the essay still seems relevant as the national election approaches.

Here is a link to that essay:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/10/21/what_don_giovanni_an_opera_about_a_charismatic_rapist_can_teach_us_about.html

What do you think about the essay and its main argument or point?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music news: Wisconsin Chamber Choir performs “Bernstein and Friends” – including a world premiere by American composer Judith Shatin — this Sunday afternoon

May 30, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Just because we are in the intermission between the end of the spring concert season and the beginning of the summer concert season doesn’t mean there isn’t some very good live classical music to be found.

The Wisconsin Chamber Choir (below) will present a concert entitled “Bernstein and Friends” featuring Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” on Sunday, June 3, at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, in downtown Madison.

Also on the program is the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Virginia composer Judith Shatin, along with works by composers whom Bernstein championed as a conductor, including music of Copland, Beethoven, Schumann and Ives.

Tickets are available in advance for $14 through Brown Paper Tickets or via www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org or at the door for $16. Student tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.  Tickets also available at Orange Tree Imports and both Willy Street coop locations.

Founded in 1999, the Madison-based Wisconsin Chamber Choir has established a reputation for excellence in the performance of Bach oratorios, a cappella masterworks from various centuries, and world-premieres. Dr. Robert Gehrenbeck (below) is the Wisconsin Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director.

For more information, visit: http://www.wisconsinchamberchoir.org/

Leonard Bernstein (below) composed “Chichester Psalms” in 1965 while on sabbatical from his conducting post with the New York Philharmonic. Working on commission from Chichester Cathedral in England, Bernstein used the original Hebrew texts of six different psalms, and the resulting music has a distinctly popular flair that recalls the style of “West Side Story.”

The WCC’s performance will feature boy soprano Nathaniel Johnson, harpist Karen Atz, organist Theodore Reinke and percussionist Tobie Wilkinson.

Other Bernstein works on the program include selections from the musical theatre work “Mass” and a rarely heard early work, “Hashkiveinu,” a setting of a prayer from the Jewish Sabbath evening service.

In the spirit of Bernstein’s own advocacy on behalf of younger composers, the WCC is proud to present the world premiere of “The God of Glory” by Judith Shatin, who teaches composition at the University of Virginia and Director of the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Having made her own translation of Psalm 29, Shatin explains that her music “was inspired by the strength of the poetry, and seeks to sonically amplify its images.”

Rounding out the program are works by composers closely associated with Bernstein’s career.  His lifelong friend Aaron Copland (below) is represented by selections from Copland’s “Old American Songs” in choral arrangements both old and new. Romantic choral works by Beethoven and Schumann pay tribute to Bernstein’s passionate interpretations of these composers’ music.

Finally, a group of light-hearted early works by Charles Ives highlights Bernstein’s affinity for one of America’s most original composers.


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