The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The UW-Madison School of Music has a busy weekend, including a FREE orchestra concert for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon plus a FREE cello recital and a voice faculty showcase.

October 29, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

It will be a busy weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Events include a FREE orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon for the Wisconsin Academy’s marking of the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

But there is also a FREE cello recital on Saturday night and a voice faculty showcase concert on Sunday evening.

Here are details.

SATURDAY

At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, cello Professor Parry Karp (below left), who also plays in the Pro Arte Quartet, will play a FREE recital with his longtime pianist partner Eli Kalman (below right), who teaches at UW-Oshkosh and did his doctoral work at the UW-Madison School of Music.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman

The program includes the Sonata in C Minor for Piano and Violin, Op; 30, No. 2 (1802), by Ludwig van Beethoven as transcribed for cello by Parry Karp, who also transcribed all the violin sonatas by Johannes Brahms; the Sonata in E-flat Major for cello and piano (1922) by Ettore Desderi; and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op 22 (1945) by Samuel Barber.

Parry Karp and Eli Kalman 2014

REMEMBERING THE PASSENGER PIGEON

On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW Symphony Orchestra will perform the Wisconsin premiere of “The Columbiad,” preceded by a talk by acclaimed emeritus wildlife professor Stanley Temple (below).

Stanley Temple

The music program is: A. P. Heinrich, “The Columbiad, or Migration of American Wild Passenger Pigeons”; the Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski; and the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms.

The concert is part of a two-day symposium on the 100th anniversary of the demise of the fabled passenger pigeon. It features a short talk by Stanley Temple, Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Fellow, Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Learn more here.

On the occasion of the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology invite the public to join in an exploration of the sobering story of the passenger pigeon (below is a photo of a stuffed real passenger pigeon) and what it can tell us about the ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

passenger pigeon stuffed

Events include the Wisconsin premiere of The Columbiad, a symphony by Anthony Philip Heinrich, performed by the UW Symphony Orchestra. The Columbiad created a sensation at its premiere in Prague in 1858 and will be performed once again this fall at UW-Madison and Yale University. (You can hear the beginning of the work as performed at Yale in early October in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Anthony Philip Heinrich

Heinrich was inspired by witnessing vast flocks of passenger pigeons in 1831. Known in his day as “the log cabin composer” and “the Beethoven of America,” Anthony Philip Heinrich is the only important composer of the early 19th century to have experienced the North American frontier as he did. He saw Niagara Falls, he encountered Native Americans and slave musicians, and he witnessed the astonishing migration of giant flocks of passenger pigeons.

To learn about the national effort, please see Project Passenger Pigeon.

Here are related events and links:

The Savage Passengers (play)

A staged reading of a new play about the passenger pigeon by The Bricks Theatre

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m.

UW-Madison Biotechnology Auditorium, 425 Henry Mall

From Billions to None (Documentary)

An afternoon documentary screening and panel discussion on the demise of the passenger pigeon

Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

UW–Madison Union South, Marquee Theater

1308 W. Dayton St.

Stanley Temple: “A Bird We Have Lost and a Doubt We Have Gained” (Fellows Forum).

Stanley A. Temple is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and former Chairman of the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development Program in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison. For 32 years he held the academic position once occupied by Aldo Leopold, and during that time he won every teaching award for which he was eligible. Temple has a PhD in ecology from Cornell University where he studied at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (below is a photo of one mass shooting of passenger pigeons.)

passenger pigeon slaughter

VOICE FACULTY SHOWCASE CONCERT

At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night, Nov. 2, in Mills Hall the UW-Madison voice faculty presents an evening of chamber music featuring the solo voice. Featuring a premiere, “White Clouds, Yellow Leaves,” written by composer and saxophone professor Les Thimmig (below).

Les Thimmig color

Participants includes: Mimmi Fulmer and Elizabeth Hagedorn, sopranos; Paul Rowe, baritone; with Karen Atz, harp; Thomas Kasdorf, piano; Marc Vallon, bassoon; Parry Karp, cello; and many students and faculty from the UW-Madison School of Music.

Tickets are $10 with students getting in for FREE. Tickets will be available at the door as well as online or at the box office. Please see this link.

Here is the full program:

“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (1934) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) Chanson Romanesque; Chanson épique; Chanson á boire with Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

“La lettre” by Jules Massenet  (1842-1912)

“Absence” by Georges Bizet  (1838-1875)

“L’invitation au voyage” by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Marc Vallon, bassoon, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano, and Karen Atz, harp.

“Barcarolle” by Charles Gounod  (1818-1893) with Elizabeth Hagedorn, soprano; Paul Rowe, baritone, with Thomas Kasdorf, piano.

INTERMISSION

“Long Pond Revisited” (2002) by Lori Laitman (below, b. 1955). From poetry by C.G.R. Shepard: “I Looked for Reasons,” “The Pond Seems Smaller,” “Late in the Day,” “Days Turn,” “Long Pond Revisited” with Paul Rowe, baritone; Parry Karp, cello.

lori laitman

“White Clouds, Yellow Leaves” (2013) by UW-Madison composer Les Thimmig (b. 1943) fromTexts derived from 8th- and 9th-century Chinese poetry with Mimmi Fulmer: mezzo-soprano; Mi-Li Chang: flute, piccolo, alto flute; Kostas Tiliakos,: English horn; Marc Vallon: bassoon; Sean Kleve: percussion; Karen Atz, harp; Paran Amirinizari: violin; Rachel Hauser: viola; Andrew Briggs: violoncello; and Les Thimmig: conductor.

Here is a link to the full program with program notes:

http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/voice-faculty-recital/

Tickets are $10 for the public; students get in free.

Ticket info here.

 

 

 

 


Classical music: The Oakwood Chamber Players announces its 30th anniversary season –- and gives up performing at the UW-Madison Arboretum.

August 12, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

This coming season the Oakwood Chamber Players (below) turns 30.

30years-logo

The group, which features talented players and seasoned professionals — who also play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music —  in repertoire that is often neglected or unknown or new, will mark the occasion by reprising works from past concerts. Think of it as a season of Golden Oldies.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 3

The real news to The Ear is that the group will no longer play one of its two weekend performances at the Visitor Center (below) in the Arboretum.

Here is how one spokesperson explained it: “While we really appreciated the environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, as well as the exposure to a different audience, the decision to hold both concerts at Oakwood was a financial one — as these things too often unfortunately are.

“There are space and piano rental fees at the Arboretum that we don’t incur at Oakwood that were making the concerts cost-prohibitive to hold there, and our audience size was not adequately offsetting these expenses.”

UW Arboretum Visitor Center

Here is an introduction plus a list of the 30th anniversary season programs:

Reprise!

Looking Back Over 30 Years

Looking back over 30 years of music making, the Oakwood Chamber Players remember great performances of unique and much-loved works of art.  We also honor the fun and richness we’ve shared with our musician friends; some who have been with us for a single concert or a few years and others who have shared the stage with us for three decades.

And of course our trip down memory lane would not be complete without thoughts of all the terrific audiences who have honored us with their support and applause.

And so we come to this season, one of looking back, still with anticipation of what is to come!  We hope you will join us on the journey!”

Concerts are Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.  All 2014-15 concerts will be held at the Oakwood Center for Arts and Education, 6209 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705

Ticket prices are: Senior Single — $15/concert; Senior Series – $65/season; Adult Single – $20/concert; Adult Series – $85/season; Student Single – $5/concert.

For more information, visit: http://www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com

September 13 and 14, 2014 — REWORK!

Johannes Brahms (below top): Sonatas for Clarinet/Piano and Viola/Piano

Ferdinand Ries (below bottom): Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello

(Brahms Sonatas … one which the composer reworked from clarinet to viola)

brahms3

Ferdinand Ries

November 28 and 30, 2014 — REMIX!  

“Christmas Lights” Memories: Various selections from our long history of Christmas Lights performances (originally performed November, 1994)

NOTE: The dates and times for the November concerts are: Friday, November 28, 2014 at 1 p.m.; and Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

Oakwood Chamber Players 2012 2

January 17 and 18, 2015 — RECAPITULATE!  

Bedrich Smetana  (below top): Trio for violin, cello and piano, Op. 15 in g minor (originally performed May, 2004)

Leos Janacek (below bottom): “Mladi” (Youth) for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and bass clarinet (originally performed July, 1989/May 2004)

Adolf Schreiner: “Immer Kleiner” for clarinet and piano (originally performed May, 2006)

bedrich smetana

Leos Janacek

March 14/15, 2015 — REPLAY!  

Claude Debussy (below top): Sonata for flute, viola and harp (originally performed November, 1990)

Ottorino Respighi (below bottom): “Ancient Airs and Dances” (originally performed January, 2005, and heard in a YouTube video at the bottom)

Claude Debussy 1

Ottorino Respighi

May 23/24, 2015 — REISSUE!

Aaron Copland (below top): “Appalachian Spring” for 13 instruments; (originally performed November, 1989)

Carl Nielsen (below bottom): “Serenato in Vano” for clarinet, horn, bassoon cello and bass (originally performed June, 1993/May, 2009)

aaron copland

Carl Nielsen at piano

 


Classical music: The UW Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra will perform works by Mendelssohn and Vaughan Williams this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

November 21, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Loyal readers of this blog know the name Mikko Utevsky. The young violist and conductor is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, where he studies with Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm and plays in the UW Symphony Orchestra.

Utevsky, who has won awards and impressive reviews for his work in music education since his days at Madison’s East High School, is the founder and conductor of the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which will perform its fourth season next summer. He was recently named the new Music Director of a local community orchestra, The Studio Orchestra. The ensemble has an out-of-date website here (www.disso.org).

You can check out his many honors and projects by typing his name into the search engine on this blog site.

Utevsky offered The Ear a guest preview of a concert this coming weekend by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Choral Union and the UW Symphony Orchestra. I immediately took him up on the offer. After all, he is a fine and perceptive writer who, you may recall, blogged for this post when he was on tour two summers ago with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) tour to Vienna, Prague and Budapest.

Here is the preview by Mikko Utevsky (below):

new Mikko Utevsky baton profile USE

By Mikko Utevsky

This weekend, UW-Madison Choral Director Beverly Taylor (below top, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) brings a wonderful and varied program to the stage of Mills Hall, consisting of a pair of choral and orchestral works performed by the UW Choral Union and the UW Symphony Orchestra (both below bottom, the latter fresh off of a critically acclaimed performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and the Brahms Violin Concerto with soloist Rachel Barton Pine).

Beverly Taylor Katrin Talbot

Missa Choral Union and UW Symphony Orchestra

The choral concert, which can be heard Saturday night at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. — and in which, for full disclosure, this writer will be singing — features an unusual pair of secular and half-sacred cantatas: “Die Erste Walpurgisnacht” (The First Walpurgis Night) by Felix Mendelssohn (bellow top) and “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Mendelssohn

Ralph Vaughan Williamsjpg

Mendelssohn’s work, by far the stranger of the two, is on a text by the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (below), and is set for soloists (UW student Caitlin Miller, German tenor Klaus Georg, and UW student bass-baritone Erik Larson), chorus and symphony orchestra.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1828

It tells the story of a group of Druids who, by virtue of their guile and some clever trickery, scare away the Christian soldiers who occupy their land so they can celebrate May Day in peace. While the plot is set in May, some of the music today feels more appropriate for Halloween, particularly as the Druids masquerade as devil-worshippers and demons to frighten the Christians. Left to their own devices at last, the druids end the cantata in a blaze of light.

The poet had intended this text for musical treatment, but had expected his friend Carl Friedrich Zelter (below) to set it. Zelter tried twice, but only Mendelssohn eventually completed a setting in 1831 (which he revised extensively in 1843), probably attracted to the nocturnal mischief that at times recalls both atmosphere and Mendelssohn’s music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The work runs about 35 minutes.

carl friedrich zelter

The second half of the program consists of a better-known 20th-century masterwork — of similar length and vastly greater weight — that treads the line between the sacred and the secular: “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

This cantata, which will feature soprano and visiting UW professor of voice Elizabeth Hagedorn (below top) and student baritone Jordan Wilson as soloists along with the chorus and orchestra, is compiled from a variety of texts, primarily Biblical selections and poems of Walt Whitman (below bottom).

Elizabeth Hagedorn 1

Walt Whitman 2

Composed in 1936, it is both a spiritual and human prayer for peace, mourning the dead of the First World War (below) and praying that there will not be a Second.

The Latin “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant us peace”) appears throughout the work as a refrain, interjected by the soprano soloist, who also features prominently in the first movement (“Agnus Dei”).

World War I trenches

The second movement, “Beat, beat drums!” portrays the chaos of war, and the third and fourth (“Reconciliation,” featuring the baritone, and a choral “Dirge for Two Veterans”) mourn the senseless loss of life that it brings. The fifth movement begins with a John Bright speech, “The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land,” and proceeds into a selection from the book of Jeremiah.

An optimistic English setting of the Gloria follows, and the work concludes quietly with the “Dona Nobis Pacem” sung by chorus a cappella and the soprano soloist. (See the YouTube video at the bottom.)

It is a profoundly moving work, with beautiful music and poetry, and can serve to remind us in times of strife that the truest service to the memory of the fallen is to strive for the end of conflict and the coming of peace.

I hope you will join us Saturday or Sunday for a program that is not to be missed.

Performances are in Mills Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, on Saturday night, Nov. 23, at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. 

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $8 for students and seniors. They are available by calling (608) 265-2787 and at the door.

Please note: There are sports games Friday night and parking will be difficult, so leave early and allow extra time for delays.


UW-Madison sister violinists Alice and Eleanor Bartsch join Madison Symphony Orchestra organist Samuel Hutchison for a concert on Friday night. Plus, on Saturday night, UW cellist Parry Karp gives FREE recital that includes Schumann and Brahms.

November 7, 2013
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ALERT:  UW-Madison cellist Parry Karp (below), who heads the UW School of Music’s chamber music program and who perform with the Pro Arte Quartet, will give a FREE and PUBLIC recital on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills  Hall. He will perform with his father and mother, Howard and Frances Karp, as piano accompanists. The program includes: “Poem for Cello and Piano” by Charles Tournemire; “Eight Pieces” by Theordor Kirchner; “Pieces in the folk Style for Cello and Piano” by Robert Schumann; and the late Sonata for Clarinet (or viola) and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms as transcribed by Parry Karp.

Parry Karp

By Jacob Stockinger

Word has reached The Ear:

Sister violinists Alice and Eleanor Bartsch (below respectively, in a photo by Katrin Talbot) will join the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s organist, Samuel Hutchison, in a recital of music for organ and violin on this Friday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall at the Overture Center.

Alice  and Eleanor Bartsch (c) Katrin Talbot

The generous program includes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; the Double Concerto in D Minor by Antonio Vivaldi; the Finale from Sonata No. 6 by Felix Mendelssohn; the Suite for Violin and Organ by Josef Rheinberger; the Prelude and Fugue in B Major by Marcel Dupre; the Coronation March from “Le Prophete” by Giacomo Meyerbeer; and the “Preludium and Allegro in the Style of Pugnani” by Fritz Kreisler (heard at the bottom in a very popular YouTube by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman.)

Adds Teri Venker, the marketing director, in a press release for the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

“Sisters Alice and Eleanor Bartsch are a dynamic pairing: both are members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s first violin section with impressive performance credits.

“Each sister has also won prestigious competitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) School of Music, where they are students.

“Currently, Eleanor is a first-year master’s student at UW and a Paul Collins Distinguished Graduate Fellow, and Alice is a senior at UW working toward a bachelor of music degree in performance.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Samuel Hutchison (below, in a photo by Joe DeMaio) is a seasoned recitalist and will round out the powerful trio.

Sam Hutchison with organ (c) JoeDeMaio

“When asked about playing on Overture Stage, Eleanor Bartsch (below) said, it “still takes our breath away! There’s actually a ‘sweet spot’ on stage: If you stand exactly right, the sound seems to ‘jump’ out of the violin and soar all the way to the balcony. I wish I could practice in Overture Hall every day!”

Eleanor Bartsch

“Alice Bartsch said, “The Bach Double Violin Concerto is a piece we have been performing since we were little girls. The concert has a little bit of everything from the romanticism of Kreisler and Rheinberger to the powerful “Chaconne” by Tomaso Vitali. For baroque music lovers, we will play the lively Double Concerto by Vivaldi.”

Alice Bartsch

Both Alice and Eleanor agree that they have a “sister vibe” about timing and musical phrasing that makes playing together easy, fun, and rewarding.

For more information about the Bartsch sisters and their major funders including retired Citibank executive Paul Collins, retired UW chemistry professor Kato Perlman and retired UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain, read the fine posting by Public Relations Director and Concert Manager Kathy Esposito on the UW School of Music’s new blog “Fanfare” :

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/bartsch-sisters/

In addition to accompanying the Bartsch sisters, Hutchison will also perform solo works for organ by Marcel Dupré, Herbert Howells, Josef Rheinberger, and Tomaso Vitali.

Hutchison said, “It is a great privilege to be joined by Alice and Eleanor Bartsch in this program for organ and violins.  Each brings a great joy and freshness to this music, which will be infectious for the audience.  We look forward to sharing some audience favorites as well as some new pieces with our listeners in Overture Hall.”

Overture Concert Organ overview

General admission for the concert is $20, and tickets can be purchased at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/bartsch, the Overture Center Box Office or (608) 258-4141. Student rush tickets are $10 the day of the show with a valid student ID. (See http://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush).

The performance is sponsored by Kato L. Perlman, and by Alfred P. and Ann M. Moore, with additional funding from Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation and the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund. With a gift from Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, the Madison Symphony Orchestra commissioned the Overture Concert Organ, which is the dramatic backdrop of all MSO concerts.

For more Overture Concert Organ information, visit http://www.madisonsymphony.org/organseason


Classical music: The Wisconsin Union Theater opens its new season with a winning blockbuster, meaty program of Brahms and Shostakovich performed by native son conductor Kenneth Woods, Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the UW Symphony Orchestra.

November 4, 2013
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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 every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

While the Wisconsin Union Theater is still under renovation, it is sharing its season’s programs with the University of Wisconsin School of Music, and the first one this year was a terrific winner!

Two guests graced the stage at Mills Hall, with the resources of the UW Symphony orchestra placed at the disposal of one of them, conductor Kenneth Woods, himself a product of the UW School of Music  who is now making a very individual career for himself from his home in Wales in the United Kingdom.

Kenneth_Woods

Woods chose to begin with a short orchestral piece, “In the Gale of Life,” composed in 2006 by Philip Sawyers (below). The British composer took his inspiration, and his title, from lines in a poem by A.E. Housman.

That fact matters little in the listening, for the piece is basically intended to be a zippy concert overture, designed to show off Sawyers’ mastery of a large orchestra. It might better be called an orchestral “Essay,” on the model of Samuel Barber’s works of that title, save that Sawyers lacks Barber’s clearly focused concision. Thematic materials appear but are denied explorations of their potentials. Just more of your in-one-ear-and-out-the-other repertoire, then.

Philip Sawyers

The first of the servings of real meat came with the appearance of the second guest, Chicago violinist  Rachel Barton Pine (below). She is surely the best violinist the US has produced, certainly presently active. I have long admired her versatile and imaginative work through her many prize-winning and best-selling recordings as well as at least one previous concert appearance (with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra).

Rachel Barton Pine

Her vehicle this time was Johannes Brahms’ monumental Violin Concerto.  She clearly regards it as a work of serious ideas, to which she is committed, rather than to simplistic showiness. In some ways, she understated the virtuosity, but when impassioned outbursts were called for she threw herself into them body and soul.

She also understands that any Brahms concerto is a partnership between soloist and orchestra. She was collegial, and even deferential when appropriate. The second movement opens with a gorgeous passage for wind ensemble, and when it briefly recurs at the end she joined in as if sharing their conversation.

Woods led the orchestra, meanwhile, in a solid and worthy realization of its role.

Pine also, by the way, eschewed the usual first-movement cadenza written by the concerto’s dedicatee, Joseph Joachim (below), and instead used her own–which she has published in a volume of such cadenzas and arrangements that was available in the lobby.

Joseph Joachim

A musician not only of rich talent but genuine personal grace, Barton Pine used the traditional encore slot to talk to the audience about the remarkable history of the instrument she plays, one selected by Brahms himself for a gifted lady violinist in his circle. She then played the composer’s familiar Lullaby in a solo arrangement by Albert Spalding. (You can hear it a YouTube video at the bottom and on her recent acclaimed CD of lullabies.)

As if one great masterpiece was not enough for a great concert, the second half offered another, the second serving of meat.

For a long time, the Fifth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich (below) was regarded as a vulgar capitulation to the brutal Stalinist regime, which had put the composer in serious jeopardy.  Shostakovich himself described it as “a Soviet artist’s response to just criticism,” and the work was immediately acclaimed as a model of accessible socialist art.

dmitri shostakovich

It has only been in recent years that all of Shostakovich’s music, and especially this work, have been perceived as carrying dark subtexts of personal and political import.

Woods himself clearly follows this line, and in an introductory talk pointed up the evidence for the Fifth as a work not of subservience but of defiance.  He then led a performance that was, in effect, a testimonial to that viewpoint.

It was a searing, powerful, riveting approach, its revisionism best displayed in the final movement.  Woods launched into its opening march ferociously, faster than most conductors. After its less hectic middle section, he approached its coda-apotheosis not as a paean of Soviet triumphalism, but as a slower, more unsettling challenge to the audience.

The UW Symphony Orchestra (below top, in a photo by John W. Barker) followed him magnificently.  How wonderful it is to see these students perform at a virtually professional level, utterly at one with their conductor.  Once more, a tribute to what UW Professor of Conducting James Smith (below) has done to build up a playing tradition of confidence and polish.

UW Symphony Orchestra 2013 CR John W. Barker

Smith_Jim_conduct07_3130

And, once more, this concert was a reminder of the kind of glorious musical experiences that are to be had on the UW-Madison campus, ones too often ignored or overlooked by the public and the media.


Classical music: Musicology professor Susan C. Cook is the new director of the UW-Madison School of Music.

May 31, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

The semester is over and commencement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has already been held. But in case you haven’t already heard, Musicology professor Susan C. Cook (below, in a photo by Michael Forster Rothbart) is the new director of the UW-Madison School of Music.

Last I heard, some university committee or administrator had to give the final approval, but that that was a formality and no trouble or problem was expected.

Susan C. Cook UW SOM BW CR Michael Forster Rothbart

As you can see from the biography taken from the UW-Madison School of Music website, Cook is very accomplished and original in her eclectic interests and scholarship, and she has some serious high-level administrative experience.

“Susan C. Cook is professor of music and also serves as the academic associate dean for the Arts and Humanities in the Graduate School.

“Her teaching and research focus on contemporary and American music of all kinds and demonstrate her abiding interest in feminist methodologies and cultural criticism.

“Current works-in-progress include an exploration of gender, commemoration and the post-Great War work of Maurice Ravel, American opera singer Alma Gluck, musical imagery in the novels of Carson McCullers, and female blackface minstrelsy.

“She is the author of “Opera for a New Republic,” co-editor of “Cecilia Reclaimed” as well as essays in “The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music,” the  “Garland Encyclopedia of World Music” and “Teaching Music History.”

“Her essay “Watching Our Step: Embodying Research, Telling Stories,” on the gendered and racialized meanings of ragtime social dance won the Lippincott Prize from the Society for Dance History Scholars. She has also held the Walt Whitman Chair in American Culture Studies as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Program in the Netherlands.”

Susan Cook takes over July 1 from John Stevens (below), the Yale University-trained composer, and tuba and euphonium professor, who is stepping down early to return to return to teaching for one final year before retiring.

John Stevens

The Ear wishes good luck to Susan Cook, who heads up an outstanding program, with gifted faculty and talented students, but also faces some daunting financial and staffing challenges in the coming years if the UW School of Music is to maintain its excellent reputation.


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