By Jacob Stockinger
This week will be a busy one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, which is now funded in large part by the Mead Witter Foundation.
The big event is the long-awaited groundbreaking for the new performance center. That, in turn, will be celebrated with three important and appealing concerts.
Here is the lineup:
From 4 to 5:30 p.m., an official and public groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hamel Music Center will take place at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue. (Below is an architect’s rendering of the completed building.)
At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, pianist Christopher Taylor (below) will perform the “Goldberg” Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach on the two-keyboard “Hyperpiano” that he has invented and refined. (You can hear the opening aria theme of the “Goldberg” Variations played by Glenn Gould in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
For more information about the concert and the innovative piano, visit:
Tickets are $18 and are available at the Wisconsin Union Theater box office. Last The Ear heard, the concert was close to a sell-out.
At 7 p.m. in Mills Hall, UW-Madison faculty bassoonist Marc Vallon (below, in a photo by James Gill), who studied and worked with the recently deceased French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, will lead a FREE “Breaking Ground” concert of pioneering music from the 17th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
For more information and the complete program, go to:
At 3 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet will give a FREE concert.
For more information about the group and the program, go to:
ALERT: This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is your last chance to hear the Madison Symphony Orchestra with violinist-composer Henning Kraggerud (below). The popular “Pastorale” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven is also on the program. Here are some reviews, all positive:
Here is the review that John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:
And here is the review written by Greg Hettmansberger for his blog “What Greg Says”:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear, who is an avid amateur pianist, ran across these 10 tips for productive practicing – something he can always use.
He knew some of them before. But it never hurts to review the basics. That’s why they are called the basics.
He thought that you too – no matter what instrument you play or if you sing – would find them helpful too.
And if you don’t play or sing, maybe these tips will still enhance your appreciation of the hard work that goes into playing and practicing.
So here they are:
If you have some practice tips of your own to add, just leave them in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
And to play better.
By Jacob Stockinger
Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud plays beautifully, even flawlessly, but always expressively.
You can hear that for yourself tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon when he solos in the popular Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor by Max Bruch with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under the baton of John DeMain. (The famous Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” by Ludwig van Beethoven is also on the program.)
Here is a link to more about the MSO concerts:
But Kraggerud is also a serious thinker about music and musicians.
He recently appeared in a blog posting. There he praised the use of improvising and composing as ways to explore and expand one’s musicality. And he practices what he preaches: three of his own compositions are on the MSO program this weekend. (You can hear more about his own training in the YouTube interview with Henning Kraggerud at the bottom.) He also improvised Thursday afternoon on The Midday program of Wisconsin Public Radio.
Kraggerud laments the loss of well-rounded musicians who know more about the world than just music.
He puts the use of metronome markings in a subjective perspective by quoting famous composers like Johannes Brahms and Claude Debussy. He believes that expression, rather than precision, should be the ultimate goal.
And he condemned various practices, including teaching methods, recordings and competitions, that place technical perfection above personal, subjective interpretation as a goal. He praises the use of informed interpretative freedom from Johann Sebastian Bach onwards.
Here is a link to Kraggerud’s remarks and observations, which take on added interest and relevance due to his appearances in Madison this weekend:
By Jacob Stockinger
By any measure the opening concert last Friday night of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under music director Andrew Sewell was a complete and compelling success.
It left The Ear with several big lessons:
The Ear remembers hearing one of the first Compact Discs commercially available: a recording of the famous “Eroica” Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven performed by the popular chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under its recently deceased founder and longtime conductor Sir Neville Marriner.
Was it going to be Beethoven Lite after all the versions from the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein and the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan?
Not at all.
It turned out that symphony orchestras are about power while chamber orchestras are about subtlety. The same work sounds very different when performed by the two different kinds of ensembles.
So it was with the Violin Concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky with Russian prize-winning soloist Ilya Kaler and conductor Andrew Sewell. The WCO players performed beautifully, and with the chamber orchestra you felt a balance and an intimacy between the soloist, the orchestra and conductor Sewell (below).
You could hear with more clarity or transparency the structure of the concerto and the dialogue of the violin with various orchestral sections – the flutes and clarinet stood out – that often get drowned out by bigger accompanying forces.
So when you see the same work programmed by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, do not think of them as duplications you have to choose between. Go hear both. Listen for the differences. You will not be disappointed.
That’s what The Ear did and he came away enthralled and enchanted with this smaller-scale Tchaikovsky.
The world has more first-rate musical talent than ever. Ilya Kaler (below), the only violinist ever to win gold medals at the Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Sibelius competitions, is a case in point. We owe a big thanks to the WCO for finding and booking him. He is right up there with the American violinist Benjamin Beilman, whom the WCO booked last season.
Kaler’s playing was first-rate and world-class: virtuosic, both lyrical and dramatic, but also nuanced. His tone was beautiful and his volume impressive – and all this was done on a contemporary American violin made in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (You can hear Kaler play in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Ear says: Bring Kaler back – the sooner, the better. The Ear wants to hear him in violin concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Antonio Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque masters like Francesco Geminiani and Arcangelo Corelli. Classical-era concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be wonderful. More Romantic concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Nicolo Paganini, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann would also be great. And how about the Violin Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Prokofiev and the neo-Classical Violin Concerto by Igor Stravinsky?
But anything will do. Kaler is a violinist – he records for the Naxos label — we should hear more often. These days, we need fewer big stars and more fine talent that makes attendance affordable. The Ear will take young and talented cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Joshua Roman over such an overpriced celebrity as Yo-Yo Ma, great as he is.
The WCO opened with a rarely heard eight-minute work, the Symphony No. 5 in D Major, by Baroque English composer William Boyce (below top). It was enjoyable and The Ear is happy he heard it.
True, it comes off as second-rate Handel (below bottom). Why? Because as composer John Harbison explained so succinctly at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival he co-directs here every summer, the music by George Frideric Handel has a hard-to-explain “heft.” Just a few notes by Handel make memorable music that somehow sticks in your memory.
So The Ear heard the pleasantness of Boyce and ended up appreciating even more the greatness of Handel. What a two-fer!
The rarely played Symphony No. 4 “Tragic” by Franz Schubert received an outstanding reading. But it ended the concert and left the audience sitting in its seats.
The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, by contrast, got an immediate standing ovation and an encore – a wonderful rendition of an unaccompanied Gavotte by Johann Sebastian Bach — and they ended the first half triumphantly.
Maybe the Schubert and Tchaikovsky should have been reversed in order. Or else, what about programming a really energetic symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to end the concert on an upbeat note. Just a thought.
If you went to the season-opener by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, what thoughts and impressions did you have?
Do you agree or disagree with The Ear?
The Ear wants to hear.
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 once a month on Sunday morning for WORT-FM 89.9. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. Barker also took the performance photos in the review.
By John W. Barker
An unusual feature of the program this time was a kind of running backbone: the music of the little-known 18th-century French composer Benoît Guilemant.
From a collection of duo miniatures for flute and violin, six short pieces were sprinkled through the program. There was also a larger work of his, a Quartet Sonata, Op. 1, No. 3, for two flutes and violin with basso continuo. All these were spirited, clever and imaginative pieces that greatly delighted the audience.
The French Baroque was further represented by a cantata by François Bouvard (1684-1760), sung by mezzo-soprano Consuelo Sañudo, with flutist Brett Lipshutz and violinist Nathan Giglierano taking obligato parts.
The other veteran singer involved, soprano Mimmi Fulmer, delivered a pungent Italian mini-cantata by Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677).
And, from the German Baroque scene, there was a fine Trio Sonata, Op. 1, No. 2, by the great Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). You can hear it in the YouTube video at the bottom.
The earliest music in the program was provided by Claudio Monteverdi: first, the delicious concertato madrigal, “Chiome doro” from the Seventh Book (1619); then three delightful pieces from the earlier Scherzi Musicali of 1607.
The ensemble this time consisted of eight performers. Besides the two singers and the two instrumentalists named, there were regulars like Eric Miller (viola da gamba), Monica Steger (flute, recorder, harpsichord), Anton TenWolde (cello), and Max Yount (harpsichord). Violinist Giglierano is a new presence in the group, and it seems as if he will be returning to the fold later this season.
One hates to think that the audience was somewhat smallish due to football. But it was a lively and—as always and justly—an appreciative one.
By Jacob Stockinger
Ludwig van Beethoven’s popular Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale” anchors the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) concerts under the baton of music director John DeMain on this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud returns to perform a violin concerto and some of his own original compositions.
The concerts will open with “In the South” by Sir Edward Elgar, a work that was inspired by the countryside and music he experienced during an Italian holiday.
Kraggerud will perform the dramatic and lyrical Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch (below), followed by his own Three Postludes from his composition “Equinox.”
The program will conclude with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “the Pastorale,” which is a tribute to country life, as you can see and hear in the popular YouTube video, with almost 3 million hits, that is at the bottom.
The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State Street, on Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
While escaping a drab English winter, Elgar (below), inspired by the Italian Riviera and his realization of the human cost of war, wrote “In the South” – an overture that begins and ends in a stormy mood, while encompassing wistful music for clarinets and strings.
Austrian violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim (below) put Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in the same league as the violin concertos of Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn, calling the Bruch composition the “richest, most seductive” of the four composers. The main musical theme eventually becomes the foundation for a flashy and exhilarating ending.
Kraggerud’s “Equinox” is a set of 24 postludes for solo violin and orchestra in all major and minor keys, with a concluding 25th movement, based on a narration titled “24 Keys to a World Before it Slips Away” by Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder.
The Three Postludes, each short character pieces expressing an emotion, will transport audiences around the globe, capturing in a witty way a bit of the flavor of the protagonist’s various stops on his imaginary journey.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 was inspired by his love for the countryside around Vienna. In it he reflects upon humanity’s role in the quiet spaces of nature. According to Beethoven (below), the Pastorale is meant to transport the listener to lush, restful, nature scenes that are “more an expression of feeling than painting.” Popularized through the Disney-animated classic film “Fantasia,” the Pastorale Symphony delights audiences of all ages.
One hour before each performance, Tyrone Greive (below, in a photo by Kathy Esposito), former MSO Concertmaster and retired professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
For more background on the music, please visit the Program Notes at: madisonsymphony.org/kraggerud.
Single Tickets are $16 to $87 each, available at madisonsymphony.org/kraggerud, through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25 percent by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information visit, madisonsymphony.org/groups
Club 201, MSO’s organization for young professionals, has continued to fulfill its mission for the past 11 years as the premier organization promoting classical music and networking opportunities to the young professionals’ community in Madison.
For a $35 ticket, young professionals will enjoy world-class seating in Overture Hall, an exclusive after-party in the Promenade Lounge, one drink ticket and a cash bar. Conductor John DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad), as well as musicians from the symphony, will be attending to mingle with Madison’s young professionals.
The deadline to purchase tickets is this Thursday, Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased for this event, as well as the other events throughout the 2016-17 season by visiting the Club 201 page on the MSO’s website at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/club201.
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20 percent savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.
Seniors age 62 and up receive 20 percent savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
Major funding for the October concerts is provided by: Steinhauer Charitable Trust, Rosemarie Blancke, Cyrena and Lee Pondrom, and UW Health & Unity Health Insurance. Additional funding is provided by: DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., Audrey and Philip Dybdahl, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
By Jacob Stockinger
Fans of Baroque music can take their experience beyond such standard fare as Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and George Frideric Handel if they attend a concert this weekend by the veteran Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, which has long used period instruments and historically informed performance practices.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a Badger Football game on Saturday, so it may take a little longer than usual to get to the Gates of Heaven.
Members of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) include: Mimmi Fulmer, soprano; Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Brett Lipshutz, traverse and recorder; Eric Miller, viola da gamba; Consuelo Sañudo, mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger, traverso, recorder and harpsichord; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.
Tickets at the door only: $20 for adults, $10 for students.
Here is the program:
A reception will be held at 2422 Kendall Ave., second floor, after the concert.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Mosaic Chamber Players (below) will begin their 2016-2017 season with an all-Beethoven program this Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of First Unitarian Society at 900 University Bay Drive.
The performance will be the fourth concert of five in a cycle featuring the complete string sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven (below).
On this program are: the Violin Sonata in A Minor, Op. 23, a favorite of The Ear, which can be heard in the YouTube video at the bottom; the Violin Sonata in G Major Op. 30, No. 3; and the Cello Sonata in F Major, Op. 5, No. 1.
Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for seniors; and $5 for students. Tickets are available at the door. Cash and checks only will be accepted – no credit cards.
Members of the Mosaic Chamber Players are founder and pianist Jess Salek (above left); violinists Wes Luke and Laura Burns (above center); and cellist Michael Allen (above right).
For more information, including the programs for this upcoming season, which feature piano trios by Felix Mendelssohn, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Charles Ives) and violin sonatas by Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
One by one, the major groups in town are getting their new concert season under way.
PLEASE NOTE: The traditional starting time for the WCO Masterworks concerts has been changed from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Ear isn’t sure whether it is for the convenience of audiences or because of the new security measures at the Overture Center. But he likes the earlier starting time since WCO programs are usually very generous.
True to his programming philosophy, WCO music director and conductor Andrew Sewell is mixing the very popular with the rarely heard and the almost completely unknown.
Kaler sounds very promising, since he is the only violinist ever to won gold medals at three prestigious competitions — the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Paganini competitions. In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear him perform a work by Fritz Kreisler at the Heifetz Festival.
The Symphony No. 4 in C minor by Franz Schubert (below) is a youthful work, but it possesses a surprisingly mature power deriving from its mood and mystery — perhaps because he composed it in the favorite key of his mentor and idol Ludwig van Beethoven. Hence its nickname, “Tragic.”
It should also be an outstanding performance because Schubert’s music is one of conductor Sewell’s many strengths.
William Boyce (1711-1779) was a Baroque-era English composer, a contemporary of George Frideric Handel, who was more popular in his own day. But who has been making something of a comeback, thanks to the early music movement.
Boyce (below) wrote six symphonies, and No. 5 in D Major on this program promises some pleasant surprises. The Ear doesn’t recall ever hearing Boyce performed live in Madison, though that is hardly the definitive word. Maybe he just missed it.
Single tickets are $10 to $80. For tickets, a sample of Ilya Kaler’s playing and background information, visit:
By Jacob Stockinger
He played in a string quartet and a symphony orchestra before founding and directing a chamber orchestra that rose to the top ranks of the music world. Then he became a world-famous conductor of larger ensembles, including the Minnesota Orchestra.
He was Sir Neville Marriner (below, in old age), and he died at 92 on Oct. 2.
Perhaps because Marriner, who pioneered period practices on modern instruments when playing music of the Baroque and Classical eras, was famous for recording the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film “Amadeus,” his death was announced the same day on radio news programs – something that doesn’t happen often and speaks to his popularity and influence.
By all accounts, in the world of many egotistical maestros, Marriner remained modest. For this friendly titan, music mattered most and he was busy conducting right up until the end. Apparently, Marriner was a wonderful man to know and to work with.
Chances are good that by now you have already heard about Marriner’s death. So The Ear is offering some homages that repeat the details of his career and his passing. (Below is a photo of the young Neville Marriner.)
First are two moving testimonies from Marriner’s friend, the British critic Norman Lebrecht, published on Lebrecht’s blog Slipped Disc:
Here is the announcement of his death from the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (heard playing the Adagio by Tomaso Albinoni in the YouTube video at the bottom), which Marriner founded and led for many years:
Here is an exhaustive obituary from The New York Times:
And here is another obituary from The Washington Post:
Here is a good overview with some audio-visual samples, from the Deceptive Cadence blog on NPR or National Public Radio:
And here is a good summary from famed radio station WQXR-FM in New York City:
Sir Neville Marriner was a prolific recording artist, with more than 500 recordings to his credit. The Ear fondly remembers an LP that had the Serenades for Strings by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and the “Holberg” Suite by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, which has been reissued as a “Legends” CD by Decca. The playing was warmly heart-felt and superb.
The Ear also loved his complete set of piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, done with pianist Alfred Brendel.
What are your favorite Marriner recordings?
The Ear wants to hear.