ALERT: Kathryn Smith, the general director of the Madison Opera, which is presenting Mark Adamo‘s opera “Little Women” tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, writes: “One thing you might let your readers know is that Mark Adamo is doing the pre-show talk TONIGHT in tandem with me — meaning I’m going to ask him questions, so he can talk about his opera instead of me doing so as usual. That is at 7 p.m. in the Wisconsin Studio of the Overture Center, and is free to ticket holders.”
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following message that you may want to print out or write into your datebook:
The Chazen Museum of Art is pleased to announce the continuation of Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen for 2016.
On the FIRST SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH, the Chazen presents chamber music performances in Brittingham Gallery III of the old Conrad A. Elvehjem Building.
This year marks the 38th season for Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen. Until 2015, the series took place weekly and was broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio.
When WPR stepped away, the Chazen took over the series.
Lori Skelton, the producer of Sunday Afternoon Live at WPR for many years, has again volunteered to program the concert series and act as its host. Without her musical expertise, as well as her generosity of spirit, the Chazen would not be able to continue this popular program.
During the intermissions, live stream listeners will hear an interview or conversation featuring the museum’s director, Russell Panczenko. Topics include current exhibitions and the permanent collection.
Concerts begin at 12:30 p.m.
All concerts are free and open to the public. However, seating is limited. Chazen Museum of Art members may call 608-263-2246 to reserve seating the week before the concert.
March 6: Pro Arte String Quartet
April 3: Clocks in Motion percussion ensemble
May 1: Pro Arte Quartet
June 5: Madison Bach Musicians
July 3 TBD
August 7 TBD
September 4: Black Marigold Wind Quintet
October 2: Pro Arte String Quartet
November 6: Parry Karp, cello
December 4: Pro Arte String Quartet (below in a photo by Rick Langer)
ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, held from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features Danielle Breisach, flute; Jeff Breisach, horn; Peter Miliczky and Clare Bresnahan, violins; Josh Dieringer, viola; Andrew Briggs, cello; and Jana Avedyahn, piano in music by Philip Glass, Jonathan Russ, Robert Ward and Zoltan Kodaly.
By Jacob Stockinger
In case you aren’t acquainted with what a Schubertiade is, you should know that it is patterned after the kind of informal soirees, held in private homes and salons, where the early Romantic composer Franz Schubert (below, 1797-1828) often premiered to friends his latest songs, piano works and chamber music. The UW-Madison Schubertiades celebrate the composer’s Jan. 31 birthday and usually kick off the second semester of concerts.
Below is a link to a previous posting — with the complete program and list of performers — about this year’s Schubertiade.
It featured an informative interview with pianist and singer Bill Lutes (below right). Lutes, along his wife Martha Fischer (below left) – a professor of collaborative piano at the UW-Madison who also sings – co-founded and co-directs the event. Both of them also performed throughout the event:
And you can use the search engine on this blog to check out the Schubertiades in 2014 and 2015.
Kudos and bravos are in order. There were so many things to like about the Schubertiade.
Here are a few:
Another show-stopper was the superb rendition, both highly dramatic and subtly lyrical, of “Lebensstürme” (Life’s Storms) for piano, four hands, played by Lutes and Fisher.
And the closing number, the famous “Shepherd on the Rock” for soprano, clarinet and piano, brought the house to a standing ovation. (The Ear hopes that this and other moments were recorded and get posted for streaming from the UW School of Music’s website or SoundCloud.) In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear this sublime late work in a performance by soprano Barbara Bonney, clarinetist David Shifrin and pianist Andre Watts for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
In short, the third annual Schubertiade proved a completely enjoyable and thoroughly persuasive evening of performances that attested to the quality, empathy and variety of the music that Franz Schubert created in his short life of 31 years.
But perhaps the best, most memorable part of the event was to see the collaboration and cooperation that was so evident.
The Schubertiade featured an impressive lineup of faculty members, students and alumni. The many performers came from various departments: piano, voice, strings, brass, winds and opera.
We see and hear far too little of that cooperation, it seems to The Ear.
And when he talked to another loyal fan of UW music and of the Schubertiade, that fan agreed that such single-composer events are popular with the public and should take place more often. They serve as samplers with both familiar and unfamiliar works.
So maybe the Schubertiade could serve as a model for similar events with other composers whose body of work is, like Schubert’s, both first-rate and very varied.
Some composers who come immediately to mind are Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. And there are no doubt others who could be featured.
Such collaborative events would also prove popular with the public, The Ear surmises. After all, this third Schubertiade seemed to draw the biggest audience yet – a two-thirds house of about 500 – even on the night when a UW-Madison hockey game was competing for attention.
If you didn’t go, it was your loss. But there will be another Schubertiade next January, one presumes. Don’t miss it!
And if you did go to this year’s Schubertiade, leave whatever you care to say in the COMMENTS section.
The Ear wants to hear.
ALERT: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music 2011 alumnus and violist Elias Goldstein is on his way to Carnegie Hall in New York City to perform all the virtuosic 24 Caprices originally for solo violin by Niccolo Paganini. But first he will perform them here in a FREE concert that also includes other works with pianist Thomas Kasdorf, another UW-Madison alumnus, on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. (Sorry, no word on the rest of the program.) Goldstein will also give a FREE and PUBLIC master class on Wednesday at 2:25 p.m. in Morphy Hall.
For more information, go to:
By Jacob Stockinger
How does a contemporary American composer channel classic composers from more than 200 years ago?
You can find out by going to hear the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ, below). The critically acclaimed string quartet will perform this Friday night at 8 pm, in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Tickets are $27.50 to $42.50.
For more information, including reviews and video samplings, visit:
The program features two quartets by Franz Joseph Haydn, including the popular and famed “Emperor” Quartet and the earlier “Joke” Quartet as well as the Midwest premiere of John Adams; String Quartet No. 2.
NPR, or National Public Radio, recently featured an interview with Adams discussing Beethoven:
But Christopher Costanza, the cellist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, recently gave an enlightening Q&A from the quartet’s point of view to The Ear:
Can you briefly bring the public up to date since your last appearance in Madison, when you performed “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind” by Osvaldo Golijov? Major residencies and tours? Major commissions? Major performing and recording projects?
The St. Lawrence String Quartet has been busy with a wide range of projects in the years since our last appearance in Madison.
We’ve had a personnel change – our newest quartet member is Owen Dalby, our second violinist, who joined us in the spring of last year.
We happily continue as Artists-in Residence at Stanford University, where we are involved in a great number of activities, including teaching, performing, and collaborations with a wide range of schools and departments on campus.
And our international touring schedule remains very active, with concerts throughout North America and Europe; our most recent European tour, in late summer of 2015, included concerts in Scotland, Germany, Romania, Hungary and Switzerland, and we will tour Europe twice in 2016.
We’ve performed several pieces commissioned for us, including works by such composers as Osvaldo Golijov, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Samuel Adams, Jonathan Berger, James Matheson and George Tsontakis.
Of particular significance, John Adams has composed three works for us, two string quartets and a quartet concerto, “Absolute Jest,” which was written for the SLSQ, the San Francisco Symphony and the SF Symphony’s music director Michael Tilson Thomas.
We’ve performed “Absolute Jest” on several national and international tours with the San Francisco Symphony, as well as with the London Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, and the New World Symphony. Our recording of the work with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas was released this past summer.
We’ve recently embarked on a recording project of the Opus 20 quartets of Haydn, and other recording projects are in development.
Why did you choose to perform two Haydn string quartets to open and close the program, instead of a work by Beethoven, given the Beethoven influences in the String Quartet No. 2 by John Adams?
We often perform programs that begin and end with a Haydn quartet, with a contemporary work (or works) in between. This showcases the great variety and brilliance of Haydn’s gigantic contribution to the quartet repertoire.
It also provides an interesting contrast between the earliest works for quartet and current compositional offerings, stressing the fact that Haydn (below) essentially invented the string quartet and paving the way for other composers to explore creativity in their compositions for quartet.
In truth, we do often program Beethoven (below) with the Second String Quartet by Adams. For this program, I think the Adams/Haydn juxtaposition will be a meaningful comment on the evolution of quartet writing, from the early years to works of the present.
As an exercise in compare and contrast programming, what would you like the public to know about the “Joke” and “Emperor” Quartets by Haydn? About Haydn’s music in general?
Haydn’s “Joke” Quartet, from his Op. 33 set, is, as you might guess, filled with humor and wit. The quartet is actually quite straightforward structurally, filled with robust and positive energy and simple, appealing melodies. It’s a compact work, inviting and charming.
The “Emperor” Quartet, from the Op. 76 set, comes from a later period of Haydn’s compositions, and it is a work of considerable length and weight. This quartet shows a natural link to Beethoven in its duration, dynamic contrast, emotional range, and overall musical substance. (You can hear Haydn’s “Emperor” Quartet performed, analyzed and discussed by the St. Lawrence Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Of significant note, the “Emperor” is named thusly for the second movement, a theme and variations based on the tune Haydn (below) originally wrote for the Emperor Francis of Austria as a sort of national anthem.
What should readers know about the String Quartet No. 2 by John Adams (below)? How is it similar to or different from his other works that the public knows such as “Nixon in China,” “The Death of Klinghoffer,” “Doctor Atomic” “Harmonielehre” and “On the Transmigration of Souls”? Will this performance be the Midwest premiere? Will you record the quartet?
John Adams’s Second String Quartet is very strongly based on two motivic ideas from Beethoven’s Op. 110 piano sonata, as well as a variation from Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations.
The Beethoven elements are clearly presented in clever and skilled ways, and I think many of them will be evident to the astute listener. Most importantly, John is brilliant in his transformation of the Beethoven quotes, and the piece is very clearly an Adams piece, characterized by driving rhythms, great energy, and a true sense of musical intent and balance.
To get a sense of the piece prior to hearing it, I suggest listening to “Absolute Jest” (our recent recording) – another of John’s pieces inspired by Beethoven and filled with late Beethoven quotes – and the Op. 110 Piano Sonata by Beethoven.
We’ve performed the Second Quartet on several occasions since we premiered it at Stanford University about a year ago, but I do think our Madison performance will be a Midwest premiere. We are currently considering the possibility of recording the work, but specific plans have not yet been made.
What else would you like to say?
We’re thrilled to be returning to Madison after a gap of several years. It’s very exciting to be bringing a program of music by two of our favorite composers, Joseph Haydn and John Adams, and we think contrasting the two will be interesting and enlightening to all.
ALERT 1: Here are the results from last night of the Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s Final Forte competition of teenage concerto performers: The two Honorable Mentions go to pianists Liam Mayo and Audrianna Wu; the second prize goes to violinist Tabby Rhee; and the winner’s prize goes to marimbist Robert Rockman.
ALERT 2: The UW-Madison Choral Union has moved its one-time only performance of the oratorio “The Creation” by Franz Joseph Haydn from Sunday, April 24, to 8 p.m. on the previous night, Saturday, April 23. At the same time, the separate concert by the UW Chamber Orchestra that was scheduled for Saturday, April 23, has been CANCELLED because it will instead accompany the Choral Union that same night.
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 for 12 years hosted 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.
By John W. Barker
The infinitely versatile and irrepressibly enterprising Mikko Rankin Utevsky (below) has come up with another project to pursue: the Impresario Student Opera.
Impresario Student Opera made its debut in Mills Hall last Sunday night.
The program was all-Mozart.
It began with an orchestral work, the Symphony No. 35, the “Haffner.” There was a 24-player orchestra, which did commendable work, though the strings were really rather thin. But Utevsky again proved himself a savvy conductor.
The rest was Mozart opera.
A recitative and duet from Act II of Così fan tutte, “Il coro vi dono,” has Guglielmo (Gavin Waid) scoring success in wooing his comrade’s sweetheart, Dorabella (Meghan Hilker). For these, co-director Dennis Gotkowski conducted. (You can hear the scene in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
After the intermission came the main event — appropriately, the eponymous comedy Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario). This was very freely adapted by turning the title character into a woman — by no means what Mozart expected.
Five singers (below top) were mustered: Waid and Hilker, with Anna Polum and Nicole Heinen as the dueling sopranos (below bottom), and Jiabao Zhang as the sugar daddy of one of them.
The dialogue was rewritten and given in English, the musical numbers sung in what purported to be German — but diction lessons are badly in order.
In their star roles, Polum was powerful, if a little unsteady at moments, while Heinen was a quite sprightly soubrette. Utevsky conducted, but had some parts in the comedy too. Stage director Alannah Spencer showed imagination in her staging.
There were a lot of in-group jokes, aimed at a rather rowdy claque of voice students.
All in all, though, despite a bumpy start, this project bodes well as expanded opportunity for the splendid vocal talent that the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music attracts.
ALERT: The week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to take place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, will feature the local woodwind quintet Black Marigold. It will perform music by August Klughardt, Darius Milhaud and Brian DuFord.
Here is a link about Black Marigold’s winter concerts and the program:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Mosaic Chamber Players — recently hailed as “among the finest purveyors of chamber music in Madison” by critic John W. Barker on The Well-Tempered Ear blog — will be performing an all-Beethoven program this Saturday night, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
The concert will take place in the beautiful and historic Landmark Hall of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, on Madison’s near west side.
This will be the third program of a 5-concert cycle of all the string sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven (below).
The impressive list of performers (below, from left), most of whom were educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music and Lawrence University in Appleton, includes pianist Jess Salek; violinist Laura Burns; cellist Michael Allen; and violinist Wes Luke.
They play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Oakwood Chamber Players, the Ancora String Quartet, the Rhapsodie String Quartet, the Madison Youth Choirs, Sound Ensemble Wisconsin, Fresco Opera Theatre, Opera for the Young, and other ensembles here and in Dubuque and LaCrosse.
On the program are: the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major Op. 30, No. 1; the Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1; and the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer.” (You can hear the first movement of the famous and riveting Kreutzer Sonata performed by superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
There will be a reception following the program.
Tickets are $15 for the public; $10 for seniors; and $5 for students – by cash or check only. NO CREDIT CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED.
Adds founder and pianist Jess Salek:
“This concert is perfect for an adult or caregiver night-out, and also for students at the middle school-and-above age.
“Please come hear some beautiful music performed by talented, expressive, and professional local artists.
“Thanks for considering. Hope to see you there!”
By Jacob Stockinger
The third time is the charm.
By then you know a tradition has been born.
For the third year in a row, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is holding a Schubertiade at the end of January, near the birthday of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828, below). Can there be a better way to kick off the second semester of concerts and music-making?
The event, which was founded by and now is organized by and performed by the wife-and-husband team of UW-Madison collaborative piano professor Martha Fischer and piano teacher and former music director for Wisconsin Public Radio Bill Lutes, takes place this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.
Admission is $15 for adults, free for students of all ages. A post-concert reception is included.
ALSO, BE ADVISED THAT THERE IS A UW HOCKEY GAME THAT NIGHT, SO FINDNG PARKING WILL BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN USUAL. ALLOW FOR EXTRA TIME TO GET TO THE CONCERT. THE HALL WILL OPEN AT 7:30 P.M., IF YOU WANT TO COME EARLY AND GET TO YOUR FAVORITE SEATS.
What is it about Schubert that makes him special to the many performers and listeners who will take part?
One answer can be found in a press release from the UW-Madison:
More can be found in a story written by Sandy Tabachnick for Isthmus:
But Bill Lutes also agreed to talk about Schubert (below) and the Schubertiade in an email Q&A with The Ear:
This is the third consecutive year of the UW-Madison Schubertiades that you have presented in honor of his birthday on Jan. 31, this year being the 219th. What is it about Schubert that draws audiences and performers to his music?
Probably the most obvious thing we love about Schubert is the endless stream of glorious, memorable melody – melodies that we can only call “Schubertian.” Who can forget a tune like “The Trout” or “Ave Maria” or the famous “Serenade”? These are part of our cultural DNA.
Then there is Schubert’s rich harmonic vocabulary, and his expansiveness and generosity of form. Although he fashioned innumerable miniatures of exquisite perfection – short songs and piano pieces – he also wrote some of the biggest works of the time, including some of the songs we are performing.
They are big in every way, the “heavenly length” that Robert Schumann wrote about and loved, the sense of adventure and the unexpected and the sheer spaciousness of his musical paragraphs — and the long passages of rhythmic obsession that seem to anticipate today’s Minimalist composers.
Above all, his music is unique in the ways it explores the most joyful and the most tragic aspects of our experience, often interwoven, and ambiguously overlapping.
Those of us who are attracted to Schubert feel that he is our friend, our consoler, our guru and our guide to something that shines beyond the travails of our earthly life. He left us such a rich and varied body of music. The amount he composed in his 31 years is absolutely incredible. But also the level of inspiration is so high throughout so much of it.
Your program has a lot of variety. Is there some overarching “theme” that ties the program together?
This year, the pieces we are doing are all inspired by Schubert’s exploration of the sounds and imagery of nature. We’re calling it Schubertian “Naturescapes: Water, Winds and Woodlands.” Schubert came along at a time when the Romantic poets, painters and musicians began to think of nature in a new way.
Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Schubert and his poets spelled Nature with a capital N. The poetry he set to music often evokes the grandeur and sublimity of Nature, and the ways that we humans experience transcendence by observing mountains, forests, lakes and seas, and rushing winds or gentle breezes. All of the lieder that we have selected for this program reflect this almost religious attitude toward Nature (depicted below in the painting “Summer,” with a couple embracing amorously under a tree, by the Romantic German artist Casper David Friedrich.)
What are some of the challenges that Schubert’s music poses to pianists in particular?
Schubert’s piano style is unique, and calls for an ability to sing on the instrument, and to play with an array of orchestral colors.
Playing his songs of course means that you understand something about what it takes to sing them, and you have to completely get into the poetry and the ideas being explored.
He was a very social and sociable composer, and so a lot of playing Schubert involves playing nicely with others. That includes of course playing duets by two pianists at one keyboard.
Schubert was probably the greatest composer for this medium and wrote some of this greatest works for piano duet.
The two pianists must play the same instrument, and sound as one. It is harder than you might think! The issue of playing in such close proximity to your partner invites a level of physical intimacy that can be quite pleasant or quite awkward, depending on the music in question.
The great pianist Artur Schnabel (below) spoke of “music that is better than it can be played.” He included most of Schubert in this category.
The idea for the Schubertiades originated in Schubert’s lifetime — social gatherings devoted to hearing Schubert’s music, but also to having a good time with friends. How do modern performers recreate this informal atmosphere?
Part of it is the variety of the music, and the large number of performers who will be joining us, most of whom will be seated around the piano on stage during the concert (below top). We will also have seating on stage for audience members who want to have a bit of the intimate feeling of those first legendary Schubertiades (below bottom) held in salons in Vienna.
We aim for an atmosphere of spontaneity and informality, as we have in the past two Schubertiades. We are thrilled this year that our concert is underwritten by a generous donor, Ann Boyer, whose gift has allowed us to include opera singer Jamie-Rose Guarrine (below, in a photo by Peter Konerko) as our featured guest artist and alumna.
We both worked a lot with Jamie-Rose when she was a student here and she’s a wonderful singer who will be travelling to us from New England where she is a new voice faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
And of course we are delighted to be making music with so many of our UW-Madison School of Music faculty, other alumni and friends.
Anything else you want to add?
We will be performing all the songs in their original German. However, you’ll find full German texts and translations at the door. We encourage people to come early and read the poetry before the concert begins. It’s a nice way to familiarize yourself with the gist of the poems without having to be glued to your program while the songs are being sung.
Here is the impressive and appealing complete list of works and performers:
Schubertian Naturescapes – Water, Winds and Woodlands
Jamie-Rose Guarrine (JRG), Mimmi Fulmer (MF), Sara Guttenberg (SG), Marie McManama (MM), Daniel O’Dea (DO), David Ronis (DR), Paul Rowe (PF), Benjamin Schultz, (BS), singers
Soh-hyun Park Altino (SP), violin
Sally Chisholm (SC), viola
Parry Karp (PK), cello
Ben Ferris, (BF), double bass
Daniel Grabois (DG), horn
Wesley Warnhoff (WW), clarinet
Bill Lutes (BL) and Martha Fischer (MF), piano
Wanderers Nachtlied (II), D. 768 Wayfarer’s Night Song (MF, BL) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Der Fluss D. 693 The River (JRG, BL) Friedrich von Schlegel
Widerspruch, D. 865, Contrariness (DO, DR, BS, PR, MF) Johann Gabriel Seidl
Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, D. 774, To Be Sung on the Water (SG, MF) Friedrich Leopold, Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg
Fischerweise D. 881, Fisherman’s Ditty, (BS, MF) Franz Xaver von Schlechta
Die Forelle, D. 550, The Trout (MM, BL) Christian Friedrich Schubart
Piano Quintet in A major “Trout,” D. 667 (SP, SC, PK, BF, MF) Movement IV: Theme and Variations (heard in a YouTube video at the bottom)
Suleika I, D. 720 (JRG, BL); Suleika II, D. 717 (JRG,MF) Marianne von Willemer, rev. Goethe
Auf dem Strom, D. 943, On the River (DO, DG, MF) Ludwig Rellstab
Frühlingsglaube, D. 686, Faith in Spring (DR, BL) Ludwig Uhland
Im Walde “Waldesnacht,” D. 707, In the Forest “Forest Night” (PR, BL) Friedrich Schlegel
Dass sie hier gewesen, D. 775, That She has Been Here (MF, BL) Friedrich Rückert
Allegro in a minor ”Lebensstürme,” D. 947, Life’s Storms (MF, BL)
Der 23 Psalm, D. 706, (MM, SG, MF, MF, BL) The Bible, trans. Moses Mendelssohn
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D. 965, The Shepherd on the Rock (JRG, WW, MF) Wilhelm Müller/Karl August Varnhagen von Ense
An die Musik, D. 547 To Music. Franz von Schober. Everyone is invited to sing along. You can find the words in your texts and translations.
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 for 12 years hosted 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. Barker also took the performance photo.
By John W. Barker
The Willy Street Chamber Players have already awakened us to Madison’s East Side as a promising new locale of our musical life. And in presenting their program in A Place to Be, the old store converted into a conversation haven at 911 Williamson Street, they have given us further reminder of that area’s lively community life and activities.
On last Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the Willys offered an hour-long program, admission-free but by reservation. (I attended the Saturday performance.)
The small space was certainly the kind of intimate venue ideal for music by string quartet: indeed, it made for virtually an in-your-face confrontation.
Four members (below) of the Willys’ core ensemble were on hand. Violinists Eleanor Bartsch and Paran Amirinazari (alternating in second and first chairs), violist Beth Larson and cellist Mark Bridges made up a well-balanced string quartet.
Their program of four works displayed anew the level of enthusiastic music-making these players have set for themselves, but also of their wide-ranging mix of repertoire.
The opening piece was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s beloved Serenade, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music). As first violinist, Bartsch – who won honors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music — set an exuberant tone for what became a newly fresh masterpiece.
The second work, Anton Webern’s early Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement), can sometimes seem too extended for its 9-minute length. But these players imparted a forward-moving pulse to its heavily Late Romantic character that made it a lovely experience. And I must say that Larson made me aware for the first time of just how significant a role the viola part has in holding together the dense texture.
The contemporary American composer Philip Glass (below) is inevitably typecast as the arch-exponent of minimalist repetition. His 9-minute String Quartet No. 2 “Company” certainly reflects such techniques, but its four short movements allow a dispersion of their effects without making them unwelcome.
I found myself impressed, too, at least by Glass’s awareness of the characters of the four instruments—their different ranges and potentials for interaction. (You can hear Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 2 performed by Brooklyn Rider in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Finally, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15-minute, four-movement String Quartet No. 1, dating from 1938, revealed a composer enjoying energy and affirmation, with only traces of the deeper, darker, more introverted writing that would come about in his subsequent 13 quartets. Particularly striking was the nostalgic second movement, largely dominated by the viola, the role of which Larson brought off to eloquent perfection.
These two concerts served as mid-season reminders of the projected second summer season by the ensemble (below), to come in July. Full announcement of its program details and other news will come in a week or so. But the teasing hints about the repertoire ahead sounded fascinating. I, for one, found my mouth watering at many of them.
So you are all on notice, then, that this exciting ensemble, bursting with youthful talent, will once again bring special novelty and artistry to another summer’s musical life.
By Jacob Stockinger
It is described as “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete.”
“The Final Forte” event is the final round of the Bolz Young Artist Competition in which the four finalists perform in a FREE concert with the Madison Symphony Orchestra that is broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and rebroadcast by Wisconsin Public Television (WPT).
“The Final Forte” will take place this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center. Seating is FREE but you must register with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. John DeMain will conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra.
According to the Madison Symphony Orchestra, which organizes and conducts the competition:
“The Final Forte 2016 finalists (above) were selected from several young Wisconsin artists who competed in the Bolz Young Artist Competition’s two preliminary rounds. The event gave these four artists the chance to perform a movement from a concerto with the MSO.
The 2016 contestants are (below, left to right): Pianist Audrianna Wu of Madison, who will perform the third movement of the Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Grieg (you can hearing the famous concerto played by Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes in a YouTube video at the bottom); pianist Liam Mayo of Green Bay, who will perform the first and third movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 by German composer Felix Mendelssohn; violinist Tabby Rhee of Brookfield, who will perform the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius; and marimbist Robert Rockman of Sun Prairie, who will perform the “Fantasy on Japanese Prints” by American composer Alan Hovhaness.
This year’s anniversary event features special guest co-host, concert pianist Christopher O’Riley, who hosts NPR’s “From the Top” that airs here on Sunday night 8-9 p.m.
The most comprehensive information about the FREE concert, the live broadcasts, the biographies the four young contestants, the complete list of sponsors and a link to register to reserve a seat (you can also call 608 257-3734) can be found at the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s website:
According to the MSO: “This competition has captured an enormous following and numerous honors, including an Emmy nomination, First Place in the “Special Interest” category from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2007, and fifth most-watched program in the February 2007 Nielsen ratings.
The 2008 WPT and WPR broadcasts reached more than 60,000 viewers and listeners in the Madison market alone and the 2009 broadcasts reached an estimated 200,000 statewide.”
This event will be broadcast on: Wisconsin Public Television: Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 7, at 12 p.m.
Milwaukee Public Television: Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 4 a.m.
Wisconsin Public Radio: Sunday, Jan. 31, at 12:30 p.m.
Here is a link to Wisconsin Public Television, which features introductory videos about each performer:
And here is a link to Wisconsin Public Radio, where Thursday right after the noon news on The Midday, Christopher O’Riley, host of NPR’s popular classical music program From The Top, chats with radio host Stephanie Elkins (below) about his show and the young musicians from Wisconsin that have appeared on his show in the past. O’Riley is in town to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bolz Young Artists Final Forte.
ALERT: This Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m in Mills Hall, the UW Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, directed by UW-Madison composition professor Laura Schwendinger, will perform a FREE concert of new works by “rising young stars.”
On the program are: “Fluidity” by Yunkyung Hong; “Obnoxia” by Nathan Froebe; “Concerto da Camera II” by Shulamit Ran; Kay Ryan Songs by Laura Schwendinger; and a New String Quartet by Adam Betz.
Featured special guest performers are pianist Christopher Taylor, cellist Leonardo Altino, Erin K. Bryan and percussionist Sean Kleve, of Clocks in Motion, as well as students Biffa Kwok, Saya Mizuguchi, Mounir Nessim, Steve Carmichael, Seung Jin Cha, Joshua Dieringer, Seung Wha Baek, Saya Mizuguchi, Erin Dupree Jakubowski and Yunkyung Hong.
By Jacob Stockinger
One of the Madison-based classical music critics who deserves your respect is Greg Hettmansberger (below).
Hettsmanberger has two news items to announce.
He has just launched his own blog called “What Greg Says.”
First, some background.
Since August, 2011 Hettmansberger has authored the blog “Classically Speaking” for Madison Magazine, and added a print column of the same name two years ago.
He began writing program notes in 1996, and is currently completing his 19th season as an annotator for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Moving to the Madison area in 2001, Hettmansberger was the director of bands for Abundant Life Christian School until 2008.
Now Hettmansberger has also been tapped by WISC-TV Channel 3, a local CBS affiliate, to appear once monthly on a morning show (at 6:40 a.m.) to offer previews, reviews and news about the local concert scene. He will get 3-1/2 minutes on the third Wednesday of each month.
Hettmansberger is a discerning listener and a fine judge of musicians and music.
That makes him worth paying attention to. He always has important insights into performances by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Overture Center and the countless chamber music groups in the area.
So perhaps you will want to bookmark his blog or subscribe to it.
The Ear will.
Here is a link:
Says Greg, in his typically modest manner, about his first major topic and posting:
“My blog space is up and running. In fact, I’ve posted twice. I still don’t feel fluent, but at least it’s serviceable, and my reviewing schedule begins in earnest this Friday.”
Presumably, he talking about a review of Friday night’s concert of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Francis Poulenc and Dmitri Shostakovich by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top)and piano soloist Adam Neiman (below bottom).
Here is the latest post, a reminiscence of Pierre Boulez (below), the avant-garde French composer and conductor who died recently at 90 and who gave Hettmansberger a personal interview that he recounts in his blog posting:
Wish Greg Hettmansberger well and leave your words of congratulations in the COMMENT section.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following message from Bill Rogers, the owner of The Malt House tavern on Madison’s near east side. It fits in with the national and international trend of performing classical music in non-traditional venues such as bars, cafes and coffee houses, much like what the Classical Revolution movement does here and Le Poisson Rouge does in New York City do. So The Ear thinks what Rogers says will interest both performers and listeners.
Thanks for calling and asking about classical music at The Malt House (below). I love the name of your blog!
I put up a flier in Metcalfe’s seeking musicians who’d like a place to perform. I’ve got three bookings from that flier, and I will try other locations soon.
Upcoming performances include:
Jeff Larsen (below) — Classical Guitar – TODAY, Saturday Jan. 23, 3-5 p.m.
Yahara String Quartet (below) — (classical and love songs, “pops-style”) – Saturday, Feb. 13, 3-5 p.m.
Jeff Larsen and Inna Larsen — Classical Guitar and Violin — Saturday March 12, 3-5 p.m.
Karl von Huene (below)– Solo Cello – Saturday, March 26, 3-5 p.m.
Unfortunately, there is no piano to use. And patrons seem to prefer instrumental music to vocal music.
The musicians play 2 hours, including a beer break. Alas, these are not paid gigs. They play for tips and beer. People DO tip.
I don’t play, but I’ve been a fan of classical music since high school (40 years ago). I subscribed a few years ago to the Madison Symphony Orchestra at the Overture Center, but I found the atmosphere stifling although the music was amazing. Nobody bobbed their heads, tapped their toes or fingers, nobody “air conducted.” Meh. There was no life in the room!
I’m also not likely to seek out concerts in churches either, because I like a drink while I listen.
I wanted a more vibrant and intimate experience and, as a bar owner, I happen to have a small performance space.
So … I’m looking for chamber music-style experiences for our customers, and lively feedback for performers.
Chamber music is party music. That’s what it was written for, yes? It belongs in parties, bars, etc.
I think there’s an unmet need for intimate, relaxed, classical performances. I want my bar to be the place people come for weekend classics. A lot of University of Wisconsin faculty, staff, technicians and others who live near us come here, and they seem to respond well to these shows.
The Yahara String Quartet has played at The Malt House several times before. Attendance was decent, we sold a fair number of drinks, and everyone had a great afternoon. They’ve received a few wedding bookings because people heard them here.
I’m seeking other musicians because they’re often busy with other performances, and normal family life. I can’t book them as often as I’d like. Incidentally, I found them because one of the violinists also plays fiddle for the Oak Street Ramblers, a bluegrass band playing here monthly.
About the bar: We’ve been in business almost 8 years. Isthmus Readers voted us best craft beer bar five consecutive years, Madison Magazine named us 2nd best beer bar twice, and we’ve been named one of the 10 hottest places in America to drink whiskey by Zagat. Besides a great beer and whiskey selection, we have a full bar setup, so wine, cocktails, cider and other beverages are all available.
We’re at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street. Red Letter News is kitty-corner from us, and that’s the landmark people recognize when asking “where are you on East Wash?”
Bill Rogers, Owner,
The Malt House
2609 East Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53704