By Jacob Stockinger
Get out your datebooks.
Madison now has great classical music year-round, including in the summer, which long ago ceased being an artistic desert.
This summer’s offerings include:
The 25th anniversary season, filled with new music but also tried-and-true treasured masterpieces, of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society that runs June 10-26:
The annual Madison Savoyards’ production of Gilbert & Sullivan will stage “The Gondoliers” for six performances July 29-Aug. 7:
The second season of the Willy Street Chamber Players (below):
The 27th annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which runs Aug. 27-Sept 4 and this year features music celebrating water and the natural world. Programs include music by Johann Sebastian Bach, English Renaissance music of John Dowland, William Byrd and Henry Purcell and a Wisconsin premiere by composer and co-director John Harbison plus Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Die Schöne Müllerin” and his equally famous masterpiece, the “Trout” Piano Quintet:
Plus there are a lot of smaller groups including the Madison Summer Choir and the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, both of which have received critical acclaim. And there is the Green Lake Festival. Some I might also include the six Concerts on the Square by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which this year features a hefty dose of classical fare.
But if you don’t stay around town and hit the road instead, there is a lot that might interest you in the way of summer music festivals around the country. There are festivals of chamber music, orchestral music and opera.
And The Ear has always wanted to attend the Bard Music Festival (below), which emphasizes the cultural context of the music, and the Mostly Mozart Festival. One of these years! (You can hear from co-artistic director and Bard College president Leon Botstein how the unique Bard Music Festival is run in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Here is a roundup by The New York Times, which put all kinds of genres together. Just scroll down until you hit the Classical Festivals section that was compiled and annotated by the Times’ trustworthy critic Vivien Schweitzer:
Here is a fairly comprehensive national guide from Wikipedia:
Here is a guide from two years ago, done by NPR or National Public Radio, that includes the Madison Early Music Festival and divides up the selection by regions of the country:
And for good measure, for those taking international vacations here is a guide to international music festivals:
Happy hunting and choosing. Then happy and safe traveling. And finally Happy Listening.
The Ear hopes you have a classic “classical” summer.
By Jacob Stockinger
Does The Ear ever love chamber music!
And it has been a good few days for him and for other Madison fans of string quartets.
On Saturday night, The Ear heard the Ancora String Quartet (below) in outstanding performances of the “Dissonance” Quartet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the late String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, “Rosamunde,” by Franz Schubert.
Then on Monday night, the Ear heard the terrific Rhapsodie Quartet (below top, in a photo by Greg Anderson), made up of players in the Madison Symphony Orchestra, perform the “American” String Quartet by Antonin Dvorak followed by the sublime and profound Cello Quintet by Franz Schubert. UW-Madison and Pro Arte Quartet cellist Parry Karp (below bottom) sat in as the extra cellist.
At the Ancora concert, cellist Benjamin Whitcomb, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, made the case that Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet is well known for its apt nickname and is probably the best known or most popular string quartet of all time.
But that got The Ear to thinking:
What are the most well-known and most popular string quartets?
And which string quartets are your favorites that you would recommend to other chamber music fans?
The Ear drew up a list of candidates of the first honor of being well-known.
He suspects that the “Emperor” Quartet — with its famous and infamous slow movement theme that was turned from an homage to the Austrian emperor into an anthem for Nazi Germany — by Franz Joseph Haydn, the “Death and the Maiden” Quartet of Schubert and the “American” Quartet of Dvorak all rival or surpass the public reputation of the Mozart’s “Dissonance,” although that one is certainly and deservedly famous to the general public.
As to The Ear’s favorite quartets: The Ear is especially partial to the six early Op. 18 string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven (below), which often take a back seat to the same composer’s middle quartets and late quartets. But of the famous last ones, The Ear loves the very last one, Op. 135, with its return to classical structure and clarity.
He also loves all of the Op. 76 string quartets by Haydn (below top) and is especially partial to the “Sunrise” and the “Quinten” or “Fifths” quartets. He also loves Haydn’s earlier Op. 20 “Sun” quartets; and all six string quartets that Mozart (below bottom) composed for and dedicated to Haydn, generally considered the father or the modern string quartet who also played string quartets with himself on violin and Mozart on viola.
The Ear likes Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” well enough, but he is always blown away by Schubert’s last quartet in G major, which was used as a soundtrack in Woody Allen’s great movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
He also loves the lyrical quartets on Dvorak (below), especially the Op. 51 “Slavonic” as well as the “American.” (You can hear the opening of the “Slavonic” String Quartet in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
As for Johannes Brahms, The Ear prefers the string quintets and string sextets to the string quartets.
Francophile that he is, The Ear also loves the single string quartets by Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
Among other modern string quartets, he loves the third and fifth of Bela Bartok, the second one by Sergei Prokofiev and the eight and 11th by Dmitri Shostakovich. He also adds the String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima” by Philip Glass.
Well, that’s enough for today and for this post.
What string quartet do you think is the most famous or most popular?
And which string quartets are your favorites?
Leave word, with a YouTube link if possible, in the COMMENT section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
The SOLD-OUT gala concert (below), given last February in Overture Hall by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary, will be featured in a special one-hour statewide broadcast on Wisconsin Public Television.
The program, which airs on Monday night, May 23, at 8 p.m., will feature highlights from the concert as well as interviews from current members (below), staff and alumni, and features background about music education and WYSO’s 50-year history.
For more about the concert’s details and the five world premieres of WYSO commissions that were featured, visit this post:
Here are some photos from the event, including WYSO music director James Smith (below top) and conductor Michelle Kaebisch (below bottom):
The broadcast will be repeated on Sunday, May 29, at 3 p.m. and then archived on the Wisconsin Public Television website: www.wpt.org
PLEASE NOTE: This is also a great weekend to hear WYSO members in LIVE concerts. Today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday), various WYSO groups will give the annual series of spring concerts, including performances by winners of the WYSO concerto competition.
Here is a link with full details about the WYSO concerts this weekend:
Here is a sampler to whet your appetite for both the recorded television show and the live concerts. In the YouTube video below, WYSO students play the “Great Gate at Kiev” from “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky:
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear is passing along the following announcement in time for you to mark your datebook and make plans:
For the 2016 summer season, the Rural Musicians Forum welcomes audiences to Taliesin, the historic estate of Frank Lloyd Wright, near Spring Green, and to the Wright-designed Wyoming Valley Cultural Arts Center.
In commenting on the venues for the series, RMF’s artistic director Kent Mayfield (below) said: “RMF is honored to work in close collaboration with Taliesin Preservation Inc. to host much of this year’s series at the Taliesin’s Hillside School Theater.
The Hillside Theater (below) provides a dramatic but intimate setting for performances totally consistent with Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision: imaginative, bold and beautiful. And, for its part, the Wyoming Valley Cultural Arts Center underscores the sustained vitality of that vision.”
Madison’s acclaimed harpsichordist, fortepianist, pianist and founder of the Madison Bach Musicians, Trevor Stephenson (below top) opens the 2016 season on June 13 with mezzo-soprano Margaret Fox (below bottom).
Violinist Alexander Ayers (below) follows on June 27. Ayers, earlier a player in the Madison Symphony and now a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, has been widely praised for his shimmering virtuosity and technical precision. (You can hear him perform the virtuosic Caprice No. 11 for solo violin by Niccolo Paganini in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
July 11 brings on the memorable trio of Dan Barker (piano), Rob Shepherd (saxophone) and Cleo Ware (vocals) for an evening of glorious, nostalgic music by George Gershwin (below).
Clocks in Motion (below) brings its adventurous and absolutely contemporary percussion repertoire to Taliesin on July 25.
That will be followed on Aug. 8, by a showcase of captivating new music by the Madison-based wind quintet, Black Marigold (below).
The season closes with RMF’s annual “Music in the Fields,” on Sunday, Aug. 21. The Stellanovas’ evening of café jazz promises equal parts Hawaiian luau, Parisian wedding and mellow summer pleasure on the lawn at the Wyoming Valley Cultural Arts Center. The center is located at 6306 State Highway 23. (This event is ticketed.)
Now in its 35th season, RMF continues to provide all members of the community an opportunity to enjoy live music featuring a wide range of styles and combinations of music with performers of extraordinary ability.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. There is no ticket charge for concerts at Hillside Theater, but a freewill offering to support the series is taken. Given the unique appeal of the Taliesin location, early arrival for the concerts is recommended.
NOTE: Sorry, but The Ear has received no word about specific programs an works to be performed. He also doesn’t see them listed on the website for the Rural Musicians Forum.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will wind up their 50th anniversary season when they present the final concert series of the season — the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family Spring Concerts — on this Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22.
The concert series will be held in Mills Concert Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 North Park Street, in Madison.
WYSO concerts generally run about an hour and a half in length, providing a great orchestral concert opportunity for families.
Tickets are available at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for young people 18 and under.
Almost 400 young musicians will display their talents to the community during four concerts.
The concert series will drop its downbeat at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, when Sinfonietta (below), under the baton of Mark Leiser, takes the stage. The group will perform the Poet and Peasant Overture by Franz von Suppe; the Suite for String Orchestra on Old English Songs by Ritter George; the Adagio from Symphony No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff; As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) by Daehn; and Final Quest composed by Chisam.
Following Sinfonietta, Christine Mata-Eckel will lead the Concert Orchestra (below) on stage to perform Kallalanta by William Harbinson, Peter Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and finally Jacob’s Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn.
The Harp Ensemble (below), under the direction of Karen Beth Atz, will also perform at this concert. It will be performing Courante CLXXXIII by Michael Praetorius and Toward the Sun by Izmaylov.
For the 4 p.m. concert on Saturday, May 21, Vicki Jenks will direct the Percussion Ensemble (below) as it gets the concert started. It will perform Dark Flight by Campbell and their annual performance of Londonderry Air (“Danny Boy”) in honor of graduating seniors.
Following Percussion Ensemble, the Philharmonia Orchestra (bel0w), under the direction of Michelle Kaebisch, will take the stage. It will perform the final movement of Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 and Espana by Emmanuel Chabrier.
The orchestra will also perform two concertos featuring the Philharmonia Orchestra Concerto Competition Winners. Pianist Antonio Wu (below top) will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto and violinist Monona Suzuki (below bottom) will perform the Carmen Fantasy for Solo Violin by Pablo de Sarasate.
On Sunday, May 22, at 2 p.m. WYSO’s Brass Choirs (below) under the direction of Brett Keating will start the show performing works by George Frideric Handel, Olson, Heinrich Schutz and more.
Following Brass Choirs, Youth Orchestra (below) with WYSO music director James Smith will perform four concertos along with Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
Violinist Thea Valmadrid (below top) will perform Tzigane for Solo Violin by Maurice Ravel; violinist Aurora Greane (below second) will play the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky; pianist Audrianna Wu (below third) will perform the final movement of the Piano Concerto by Edvard Greig; and cellist Tatiana Tandias (below bottom) will perform the first movement of the Cello Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar.
These concerts are generously supported by the Eugenie Mayer Bolz Family, along with funds from Dane County, the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, The Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times, W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation and Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. This project is also supported in part by additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the State of Wisconsin, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
By Jacob Stockinger
This Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, the Ancora String Quartet (below, in a photo by Barry Lewis) closes out its 15th anniversary season with a selection of gorgeous favorites.
Here is the MUST-HEAR program of masterpieces by an ensemble that performs beautifully but too often flies under the radar, given how many chamber music ensembles have burst onto the local classical music scene:
The famed “Dissonance” string quartet, K. 465, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart journeys from its hauntingly modernistic and brooding opening to the most perfectly cheerful closing. (You can hear the opening in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
There will be a Mystery Piece that is billed as “a little gem of energy and drama.”
The late “Rosamunde” String Quartet in A Minor, D. 804, by Franz Schubert wafts an air of gentle melancholy.
Tickets at the door are $15 for general admission; $12 seniors and students; $6 children under 12.
A free reception follows the performance.
Members of the Ancora String Quartet are: Leanne Kelso League and Robin Ryan, violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; and Benjamin Whitcomb, cello.
Members of the quartet also play with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and both violinist Leanne Kelso League and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb teach at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
NEWS ALERT: David Ronis (below, in a photo by Luke Delalio) — who has been an interim director for two years — is the new director of University Opera. He was chosen from a nationwide search, and has posted the following news on his Facebook page:
“For some reason, I’ve been resisting posting my big news, now a couple of months old. But perhaps it’s time. I’ve been appointed the inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera at University of Wisconsin-Madison! It’s truly humbling to be going into an endowed chair established in memory of such a dear, wonderful, talented, and dedicated soul. This endowment will enable us to continue to develop the exemplary opera program at UW-Madison in all kinds of directions. Stay tuned!”
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following note to pass along:
Con Vivo!…music with life (below) presents a chamber music concert entitled “Five by Seven” on this Saturday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave., across from Camp Randall.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students.
Con Vivo!’s spring concert “Five by Seven” features septets and quintets for winds, strings and organ.
The program includes the Septet, Op. 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, and the folk-like Bagatelles, Op. 47, for strings and organ by Antonin Dvorak. (You can sample Dvorak’s tuneful Bagatelles in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
Additional pieces include the story of a lover’s unrequited love in the quintet “Serenata in vano” by Danish composer Carl Nielsen below top) and the miniature “Lyrical Andante” by the German composer Max Reger (below bottom), whose centennial was just marked.
Audience members are invited to join Con Vivo! musicians after the concert for a free reception to discuss the music.
Artistic Director Robert Taylor said: “With Con Vivo!’s spring concert, we conclude our 14th season with exceptional music that combines the wonderful sounds of winds, strings and organ. Our Madison audience will be able to hear our musicians up close and personal playing music of extreme delight and depth.”
Con Vivo! is a professional chamber music ensemble comprised of Madison area musicians assembled from the ranks of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and various other performing groups familiar to Madison audiences.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following note of public interest about an event that deserves widespread support:
Suzuki Strings of Madison (below) will presents its 25th anniversary spring concert at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday, May 15.
Suzuki students served as the pre-concert “warm-up band” for violinist Hilary Hahn at her recent recital at the Wisconsin Union Theater. Hahn, herself a Suzuki alumna, credited the method with her early start on her career.
The concert will take place at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (below), 2100 Bristol Street, which is attached to Middleton High School.
The music will include selections from the Suzuki repertoire as well as several classical ensemble pieces.
ALL FORMER SUZUKI STRINGS OF MADISON STUDENTS ARE INVITED TO JOIN ON STAGE TO PLAY IN THE CONCERT.
Everyone is invited to a reception after the concert.
The program offers private lessons, music reading and theory training, a mixed string ensemble and two touring ensembles.
The Suzuki approach deals with much more than teaching a child how to play an instrument. It seeks to develop the whole child, to help unfold his or her natural potential to learn, and to find the joy that comes through making music. (The Suzuki Method is explained in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
For more information visit www.suzukistringsofmadison.org.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following announcement from the outstanding Oakwood Chamber Players, known for giving fine performances of programs that feature both unusual repertoire and classic works:
The Oakwood Chamber Players will round out its 2015-2016 season with a concert entitled Summer Splash on this Saturday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased with cash or personal checks at the door – $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $5 students. Visit www.oakwoodchamberplayers.com for more information.
The concert will honor the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death through Six Pieces After Shakespeare by American composer Craig Bohmler (below). This piece – which was commissioned by the Oakwood Chamber Players and which is receiving its world premiere — explores some of the Bard’s most emblematic comedic and dramatic characters: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and string bass depict the quicksilver movements of Puck, pathos of Ophelia, eeriness of Macbeth’s witches and rollicking nature of Falstaff.
The program will also include Romanesque by Argentine/French composer Reynaldo Hahn (below), a work that radiates charm with its simplicity and heart as well as its sweetly flowing melody. The expressive musical lines are even more emphasized by the melded flute and viola timbres as they join together in unison.
The complexity and artistry of Summer Music by Samuel Barber (below) make it an enduring and fascinating piece of music. Its slow and bluesy beginning shifts to flashes of dissonance with contrasting lofty and flowing lines. As the work draws to its conclusion the listener is returned to the lazily unfolding material of the start, echoing the idle quality of summertime.
Finally, the concert will close with the delightful and uplifting theme and variations movement from the beloved “Trout” Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667, for violin, viola, cello, bass and piano, by Franz Schubert (below). The work gets its nickname from the theme and variations movement based on the song “The Trout” by Schubert. (You can hear that movement in the YouTube video at the bottom.)
The Oakwood Chamber Players is a group of Madison-area professional musicians who have rehearsed and performed at Oakwood Village for over 30 years.
The Oakwood Chamber Players are a professional music ensemble proudly supported by Oakwood Lutheran Senior Ministries and the Oakwood Foundation.