The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Should the Madison Symphony Orchestra program more 20th-century music?

April 14, 2017
21 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

A friend and reviewer for this blog – his specialty is opera but he also is very experienced with the symphonic repertoire — sent in the following opinion piece.

It is being posted in the wake of the announcement by the Madison Symphony Orchestra of its 2017-18 season.

For reference, here is a link to the lineup of the next season’s concerts that was posted yesterday:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-announces-its-2017-2018-season-of-nine-concerts-of-favorites-combined-with-firsts/

By Larry Wells

I received my subscription renewal package for the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a  photo by Greg Anderson) a couple of weeks ago, and I was struck then by how conservative and prosaic most of the offerings are.

I’ve mentioned my feelings to acquaintances, and one of the prevailing arguments is that they have to fill the seats.

The assumption seems to be that the patrons will only tolerate music written before 1850.

I’m 70 and I grew up with Stravinsky. I can recall the world premieres of Shostakovich’s final three symphonies. I once eagerly awaited recordings of Britten’s latest works. And I heard the first performances of several works by John Adams (below) while living in San Francisco in the 1980s.

If the assumption is that most reliable patrons are in their 70s and 80s, this seems like a dead-end (pardon the pun). There will be no audience in 20 years.

I believe that audiences can tolerate music of the 20th century — look at the glowing reviews of and enthusiastic ovations for last week’s performances of Witold Lutoslawski’s “Concerto for Orchestra’’ — and attracting younger patrons with bolder musical choices seems an economic necessity.

How can the MSO not be commemorating the centenary of Leonard Bernstein (below, in a photo by Jack Mitchell)? The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is performing several of his pieces in its upcoming season.

Why do we have to endure another Brahms symphony when we could hear Dmitri Shostakovich’s 11th or 15th or Jean Sibelius’ Fourth or Fifth or even Anton Bruckner’s 8th?

On a positive note, I was heartened to see that Benjamin Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem” is scheduled next season since that has been on my wish list for years. Likewise, Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass” is a nice surprise.

However, when will we hear Britten’s “War Requiem,” Bernstein’s “Mass” or “‘Songfest,” a symphony by Walter Piston (below top) or William Schuman (below middle) or Alan Hovhannes (below bottom)?

I’m really tired of going to concerts where only one of the works is of interest to me and the others are historic artifacts. I’d like to see a reversal wherein Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven are brought out occasionally, but the bulk of the music performed comes from the rich source of the 20th century.

What do you think?

Leave word in the COMMENT section.

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Classical music: Why aren’t America’s modernist composers as well as known as its modernist artists?

August 6, 2016
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Recently, the culture critic Terry Teachout posed an interesting question in a column he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Why, he asked, aren’t America’s 20th-century modernist composers as well known as its modern artists such as Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko?

Sure, you know of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, and you hear their music performed and played often.

But what about Roy Harris, Peter Mennin, Elliott Carter, Walter Piston and William Schuman (below)? Or even the concert music of Leonard Bernstein? (You can hear Bernstein conducting one of his favorite works by William Schuman, the energetic “An American Festival Overture,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

William Schuman

You rarely hear their music.

And you rarely hear about them.

Why is that?

And how can it be fixed – if it should be fixed?

Here is Teachout’s take, which involves the focus of the programs at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival.

Read it and see what you think:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-forgotten-moderns-1468445756

Then let us know.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: A FREE CD and a dedicated concert are perfect memorial tributes for flutist Robin Fellows — or for any musician

March 24, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

There was so much to like about last Friday night’s concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below), including a fantastic performance of the sublimely beautiful Violin Concerto by the American composer Samuel Barber.

WCO lobby

The concerto, with its soaring melodies, poignant harmonies and spiky perpetual motion finale, was played superbly by Russian-born, London-based virtuoso Alexander Sitkovetsky (below), who received a masterful accompaniment from longtime music director and conductor Andrew Sewell and the WCO. (As an encore and change of pace, Sitkovetsky played the soulful Sarabande from the Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach.)

Here are two very positive reviews, written by John W. Barker for Isthmus and Greg Hettmansbeger for Madison Magazine, with which The Ear agrees:

http://isthmus.com/music/dashing-brilliance-wisconsin-chamber-orchestra/

https://whatgregsays.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/sewell-and-sitkovetsky-bring-out-the-best-of-a-couple-of-bs/

alexander-sitkovetsky

But The Ear notes this: Perhaps the most touching moment came off-stage.

As you may have heard, last October Robin Fellows died of cancer at 66. For 26 years, he had been the principal flutist of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and also taught at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He also played and taught at many other places.

If you went to the indoor classical Masterworks concerts by the WCO, you heard him.

And if you went to the popular summertime Concerts on the Square, you heard him.

So it was right and fitting, as they say, for the WCO to dedicate the concert to Fellows (below). Indeed, the program seemed perfect in its homage.

We heard a new principal flutist and heard lots of prominent flute playing in works by Irish composer Joan Trumble, Swedish composer Lars-Eric Larsson and especially the Symphony No. 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.

robin fellows with flute

But the most stirring tribute happened off-stage.

That is because the family gave out a FREE memorial tribute CD of 20th-century flute music – with singers, bassoonists, clarinet, harp and piano — that was played by Fellows, recorded and released in 2002.

It includes music by Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, Albert Roussel, Ernst Toch, Daren Hagen (a UW-Madison alumnus) and Vincent Persichetti.

Out in the lobby of the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center was a table with not only the new season brochures for 2016-17, but also many stacks of FREE CDs. The audience was invited to take one by a current WCO flutist and oboist.

Robin Fellows CD table

And as you entered and left the theater, there was a large poster with a picture of Fellows and a paragraph about his life and accomplishments.

Robin Fellows poster

The Ear is still sampling all the pieces on the CD.

So far, it is both enjoyable and enlightening. The Ear would include a sample, but unfortunately he doesn’t see that any tracks have been uploaded to YouTube.

Still, one cannot imagine Fellows — or any musicians, for that matter — wishing for a better tribute.

The Ear says: Kudos to the Fellows family and to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra for providing such memorable memorials.


Classical music: The seventh annual FREE Concert in the Park by the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) is this coming Wednesday night in Old Sauk Trails Park.

August 7, 2015
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear’s friends at the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) write:

The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras is proud to be a part of Concert in the Park, hosted by The Gialamas Co. for yet another season.

WYSO Concert  the Park Tent 4

For seven consecutive years, WYSO has been invited by The Gialamas Company to be a part of this spectacular event. This special FREE concert has recently become a highlight of the summer.

The Youth Orchestra, consisting of members ages 14–18, will perform this coming Wednesday night, Aug. 12 (NOT Aug. 9 as was first stated in error), in Madison’s far west side in Old Sauk Trails Park, 1200 John Q. Hammons Drive, from 5 to 10 p.m. The music starts at 7 and runs to about 9 p.m.

WYSO Concert in the Park

The Youth Orchestra, under the direction of WYSO Music Director James Smith, will perform six works: “Festive Overture” by Dmitri Shostakovich; Movements 1 and 4 from Symphony No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff; excerpts from “Die Meistersinger” by Richard Wagner; the first movement from Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished” by Franz Schubert; Suite from “The Incredible Flutist” by Walter Piston (at bottom in a YouTube video); and “Over the Rainbow.”

WYSO Concert in the Park, playing under Jim Smith 3

The evening is capped off with a marvelous fireworks display.

fireworks

Before the event there will be an instrument petting zoo, face painting and Ice Cream Social. Tables, food and drinks are available for purchase. For more information, visit www.gialamas.com.

Make sure to stay after the event for a spectacular fireworks show. Set up lawn chairs, lay out blankets and put out your picnic baskets as you enjoy all of the music and activities this FREE event has to offer.

WYSO Concert in the Park Photo aeriel view

For additional information, please contact WYSO at (608) 263-3320 or e-mail at wyso@wyso.music.wisc.edu.

 


Classical music education: The Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras concerts are tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, and on Saturday afternoon, March 28.

March 14, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s post is just a reminder that the annual Diane Endres Ballweg Winterfest Concert Series of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) will take place this Sunday afternoon and on Saturday afternoon, March 28.

The concerts will feature Sinfonietta, Harp Ensemble (below, to play this Sunday at 4 p.m.), Concert Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Youth Orchestra.

WYSO Harp Ensemble 2011

The music for the programs is below. Please note that the pieces are subject to change at the conductor’s discretion.

All concerts will take place in Mills Concert Hall, located in the UW-Madison Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for youth age 3-18.

For information, call 608-263-3320 or visit www.wyso.music.wisc.edu

SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2015

Sinfonietta: 1:30 p.m.

Richard Stephan – “Fanfare and Frippery”

Arr. Benjamin Britten – “The Sally Gardens”

William Hofeldt – “Twilight Ceremonial”

Clare Grundman – “Hebrides Suite”

Carold Nunez – “M to The Third Power” (Minor Meter Mix)

Antonin Dvorak – Themes from the “New World” Symphony

Richard Stephans – Variations on a well-known “Sea Chantey”

Sinfonietta strings

Concert Orchestra – 1:30 p.m.

Rimsky-Korsakov – Dance of the Tumblers from “The Snow Maiden,” ed. Carl Simpson

William Hofeldt – “Song of the Prairie”

John Barry – “Dances with Wolves,” arr. Steven I. Rosenhaus

James Barnes – “Yorkshire Ballad”

Harry Gregson-Williams and Steve Barton – ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Arr. Stephen Bulla

wyso concert orchestra brass

Philharmonia Orchestra – 4 p.m.

Schubert – “Military March,” arr. Leopold Damrosch

Mozart – Overture from “The Magic Flute”

Marquez – Danzon No. 2

Debussy – “Clair de Lune,” orch. Arthur Luck

Bizet – Excerpts from “Carmen” Suite No. 1

Tom Buchhauser Conducting Philharmonia Jon Harlow

SATURDAY, MARCH 28, 2015

Youth Orchestra – 1:30 p.m., with winners of the WYSO Concerto Competition

Walter Piston – Suite from the “Incredible Flutist”

Schubert – “Unfinished” Symphony (No. 8) Movements 1 and 2

Arutiunian – Trumpet Concerto

Noah Mennenga, Soloist

Beethoven – Third Piano Concert, Movement 3

Theodore Liu, Soloist

WYSO Youth  Orchestra


Classical music: The populist group Classical Revolution Madison will perform chamber music and songs by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, Schumann and Walter Piston, and then hold an open-mic classical jam session on this Thursday night at the Brocach Pub on the Capitol Square. Plus, the concert next Tuesday night by the Rhapsodie Quartet has been CANCELLED.

February 19, 2014
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ALERT: The concert of chamber music by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini  next Tuesday night, Feb. 25, by the Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) of the Madison Symphony Orchestra has been CANCELLED.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

Word reaches The Ear with an intriguing and appealing tavern concert with some outstanding music by the laudable local chapter of a national populist movement that brings classical music to non-traditional audiences in non-traditional venues such as bar, cafes and coffee houses. Many of the members and performers come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

Classical Revolution Madison logo

“Classical Revolution Madison will be back with a jam-packed show of classical and contemporary favorites at Brocach Irish Pub (below) on the Capitol Square, 7 West Main Street) on Thursday, February 20th at 7 p.m. 

brocach inn

From 7-8 p.m., members of CRM (below) will present a dynamic program featuring works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn, and more! (See below for more information on the pieces and performers)

Classical Revolution Madison

Then, from 8-9 p.m., we will open up the floor for anyone who wants to sight read or jam, so come with your fiddle or the sheet music of your favorite chamber work if you would like to join in on some casual music making!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Zou Zou Robidoux and Emily O’Leary

Here is the program for the Brocach appearance:

Clarinet Quintet by Johannes Brahms

I. Allegro

Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet (below)

Thalia Coombs and Nathan Giglierano, violins

Mara Rogers, viola

Zou Zou Robidoux, cello

Kai-Ju Ho

String Quartet Op. 76, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (below, and you can hear the beautiful namesake first movement played by the acclaimed Takacs Quartet, in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

II. Poco adagio; cantabile

Tony Oliva and Keisuke Yamamoto, violins

Marissa Reinholz, viola

Chris Peck, cello

Haydn

Excerpts from “Duo” by the 20th-century American composer Walter Piston (below)

Mara Rogers, viola

Tori Rogers, cello

Walter Piston

Excerpts from “Dichterliebe” (A Poet’s Loves) by Robert Schumann (below)

Tom Leighton, tenor

Emily O’Leary, piano

Schumann photo1850

String Quartet No. 3 by Dmitri Shostakovich

III. Allegro non troppo

Thalia Coombs and Teddy Wiggins, violins

Mikko Utevsky, viola (below)

Rachel Bottner, cello

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

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