The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A FREE recital by the Del Sol string quartet on Monday night honors pioneering composer Ben Johnston

May 20, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has been asked to post the following announcement:

The San Francisco-based ensemble the Del Sol Quartet will give a FREE public recital on Monday night, May 21, in Madison in honor of pioneer composer, teacher and mentor Ben Johnston (below).

For more information about the composer, go to:

The recital is on the occasion of Johnston’s upcoming induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters

This FREE performance will be held in the new Atrium Auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) of the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Monday night at 7 p.m.

The program will feature Johnston’s two most popular string quartets: the Fourth Quartet (based on the beloved theme “Amazing Grace”); and the Tenth Quartet (also based on a popular folk melody). In addition there will be works by some of Johnston’s contemporaries. (You can hear the Fourth Quartet of Ben Johnston in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

Johnston, 92, has made his home in the Madison area for the past 11 years, where he continues to advance the field of microtonal music composition and performance, most notably initiated in the U.S. by music legend Harry Partch, with whom Johnston studied for several years. Partch’s seminal work, “Genesis of Music,” was first published in Madison by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1949.

Winner of numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, Johnston spent most of his career at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He had a significant role in some of the Contemporary Arts Festivals, which were annual events in the 1960s. His service, as composition teacher and mentor there, led to an honorary doctorate from that institution. He is also the author of “Maximum Clarity,” published by the University of Illinois Press.

Hailed by New York Times critic Mark Swed as “probably [America‘s] most subversive composer …able to make both radical thinking and avant-garde techniques sound invariably gracious,”Johnston’s diligent dedication recently resulted in the release of the third CD by the Milwaukee-based Kepler Quartet on the New World Music label

The three CD series encompasses all of Johnston’s string quartets and took 14 years of painstaking collaboration to bring to fruition, receiving high acclaim internationally. Johnston has been well-known in experimental music circles since his second quartet came out on Nonesuch Records in 1969.

Hailed by Gramophone as “masters of all musical things they survey” and two-time winner of the top Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the Del Sol String Quartet shares living music with an ever-growing community of adventurous listeners.

Del Sol (below) was founded in 1992 at Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada and is recognized as a “vigorous champion of living composers,” focusing on music that reflects the cultural diversity of the community, advocating works by both world-renowned and emerging composers, and collaborating across disciplines. Del Sol has commissioned and premiered over 100 works by a diverse range of composers.

The Quartet has performed on prominent concert series nationwide, including the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Symphony Space, Cabrillo Festival, Other Minds Festival, and Santa Fe Opera.

The quartet conducts an active educational program in the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to regular residencies at universities and music schools across the country.”

For more information, go to:

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Classical music news: UW Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra to make their Overture Hall debut in Verdi’s dramatic and moving Requiem on Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m.

April 10, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Now that Spring Break has ended and the University of Wisconsin-Madison is back in session, this will be just a quick post to remind you that a special event coming up.

One week from Friday, at 8 p.m. on April 20, the combined forces of the 175-voice UW Choral Union – a campus and community singing group that is nearly 120 years old – and the 85-piece UW Symphony Orchestra (both are below) will make their debut in the Overture Center’s Overture Hall performing Verdi’s Requiem.

The soloists (below from top to bottom) are soprano Shannon Prickett, mezzo-soprano Marion Dry, tenor Aldo Perrelli and bass Tony Dillon.

The work is understandably dramatic and operatic, coming late from Verdi (below) whose many operas prove how well he had mastered composing for both the human voice and for various instruments.

The large-scale work both pleases and impresses. It promises to be a major event of the concert season – a ONE–PERFORMANCE ONLY event for a group that usually offers two performances each semester.

It a special, sure-to-please piece, under the direction of conductor and choral director Beverly Taylor (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), who has turned in stunning performances of the same work many years ago in the acoustically inferior Stock Pavilion, here all the hay provoked allergies of chorus members, soloists, orchestra players and audience members alike.

For the official UW press release about the work, with information about the soloists and the choice of the venue, visit:

This is also a chance to be an arts booster. It is a special concert that has taken a year to arrange; a concert that is expensive to stage in the beautiful and acoustically state-of-the-art concert hall rather than the usual Mills Hall on campus. So through hard work, major donations have been secured.

But in addition, for that reason the public should also be aware that tickets are more expensive than they usually are, costing $10, $15, $20 and $25 depending on the seat location. But the glorious music and performance should be well worth the expense.

Here is a link for buying tickets:

You can also call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

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