The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Art and politics do mix, and music can fight racism. That is why we mark the 75th anniversary of black singer Marian Anderson’s historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

April 13, 2014
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REMINDERS: Today at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the lovely Requiem by Gabriel Faure will be performed at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive. Free-will donations will be accepted. For more information and background, see the link below. Also, at 7:30 p.m in Mills Hall, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music‘s group Chorale will perform a FREE concert under conductor Bruce Gladstone (below in a photo by Katrin Talbot).


By Jacob Stockinger

Do art and politics mix?

Can music fight racism?

Maybe definitive answers can’t really be offered.

But The Ear thinks YES and says here is a reminder of what social and political action be achieved through music.

It is a story about the 75th anniversary of contralto Marian Anderson’s famous and historic concert (below top, in a photo from the University of Pennsylvania) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because the singer (below bottom), who was African-American, had been denied use of Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt helped procure the appropriate public venue for her, and FDR’s Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes delivered a rousing and populist liberal introduction that you can hear at the bottom in a YouTube video, along with her opening song.


marian anderson

Be sure to check out the crowd on that showed up to hear Marian Anderson on that 1939 Easter weekend, and also look at the many Reader Comments on the YouTube post. This concert made a difference.

It is a fine and inspiring story with some little known information, including how the singer changed the lyrics to the well-known patriotic song “My Country, T’is of Thee” to be more inclusive. She was anything but bitter and spiteful, which is more than you can say about her opponents then and now.  And readers in the Madison area should know that Marian Anderson did indeed perform locally at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

This story was broadcast on NPR and was reported by Susan Stamberg (below), the famed and beloved longtime anchor of “All Things Considered,” who these who these days in her retirement seems to do a lot of feature stories about the arts in her hometown of Washington, D.C.:

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Classical Music: Spring arrives today! What great music should greet it? And acclaimed Czech pianist Martin Kasik will perform Liszt, Debussy and Mussorgsky at Farley’s this Saturday night.

March 20, 2013

ALERT: It may not feel like it, but today — Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -– is the vernal equinox (from the Latin for “equal night”). It arrives in Wisconsin at 6:02 a.m. CDT. And boy, is it ever welcome this year after this on-and-off winter of warm and cold, snowfall and floods, sunshine and gray skies. But the first of spring is so cold!! So is spring a reality? Or just a dream or maybe illusion? Franz Schubert wondered the same thing in the YouTube video of his song “Spring Dream” (below) from “Winterreise” (Winter Journey), sung by the incomparable German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who died last year. (The mix of Schubert titles for the cycle and this specific song  certainly applies to this winter and spring, no?).  What piece would you like to hear to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of spring?

By Jacob Stockinger

Farley’s House of Pianos, 6522 Seybold Road, will present a concert by the internationally recognized Czech pianist Martin Kasik on this Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

The first half of the performance will feature all three movements of Claude Debussy’s “Estampes” (Prints) that include “Pagodas,”  “Evening in Granada” and “Gardens in the Rain”; and Franz Liszt’s “Liebestraum” (Dream of Love) No. 3 and “Spanish Rhapsody.” After an intermission, Kasik will perform Modeste Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” (at bottom in a YouTube video) in its entirety. See the program details at

Martin Kasik w piano

Tickets can be purchased in person at Farley’s House of Pianos and Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, or by calling (608) 271-2626 to reserve tickets by credit or debit card.

Tickets are $35 the day of the concert or $30 in advance. Located on Madison’s far west side near West Towne, Farley’s House of Pianos will have plenty of free parking available, and is easy to reach by bicycle or Madison Metro.  A reception will follow the concert.

Martin Kasik formal at piano

Kasik has been playing piano since the age of four and won many national and international awards before the age of 25, including the 1999 Young Concert Artists Competition and the 2000 Davidoff Prix. Other prizes include: the 1997 Chopin International Piano Competition, 1st prize; the 1998 Prague Spring International Competition, 1st prize; the 1998 Young Concert Artists Competition, European Round, Leipzig, 1st prize; and the 1999 Young Concert Artists Competition, World Round, New York, 1st prize.

Kasik has played throughout the world, including concerts in Helsinki, Barcelona, Tokyo, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Kasik teaches piano at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and is considered one of the best Czech pianists active today.

Other 2013 concerts include UW-Madison cellist Parry Karp and UW-Oshkosh pianist Eli Kalman in the complete works for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 4:30 p.m.


What classical music best memorializes the terrorist attacks of 9/11?

September 11, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11 – Sept. 11, 2001.

What is the best music to pay homage to those terrible events and that awful loss of life – and yes, of such landmark buildings as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City (below top), the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 (below bottom) crashed to spare the White House or Capitol?

Since then quite a few popular songwriters and classical composers have memorialized the terrible event in music that specially refers to 9/11. Some of the works have even won prizes and already obtained a certain currency or popularity among performers. (Last season, the Madison Symphony Orchestra performed John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls,” which won a Pulitzer Prize.)

Here is a list of the most famous ones, including recent and brand news works by John Adams, Steve Reich, Stephen Paulus, Joan Tower and John Corigliano among others.

You can find many of the on YouTube.

But call me old-fashioned.

I have heard some of the new music, but generally I am more moved by the familiar melodies and harmonies that resonate with other personal memories and personal moments to heighten the effect.

For me, the best 9/11 memorial music is still the “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber (below), especially in its original string quartet version which I find more intimate and transparent, less overwhelming than the orchestral version the composer made for the conductor Arturo Toscanini.

Then I would choose the Funeral March movement from Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony. Or maybe I would choose the quiet poignancy of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Gaze” or restrained sadness the E-flat minor and B-flat minor preludes and fugues (both at bottom), from the same composer’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. I like that very old music composers and music can still speak to and capture contemporary events and current sadness. That is part of what makes such composer and music great.

Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” would also be a fine choice as would the slow movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 and especially Brahms’ “German” Requiem and Faure’s Requiem.

What music would you choose to best memorialize 9/11?

The Ear wants to hear.

Classical music: The Freiburg Cathedral Girls Choir performs a free concert on Wednesday, Aug. 8, in Overture Hall in Madison.

August 3, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

This year the Madison Symphony Orchestra has again sponsored free one-hour Farmers Market organ concerts on the third Saturday of every month in Overture Hall, with the last one scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 18, at 11 a.m.

But there is one remaining event, and it has the hallmark of being an enjoyable and memorable event.

On Wednesday, August 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, the  Freiburg Cathedral Girls Choir (below to) from Madison’s sister city of Freiburg, Germany (below bottom is the Freiburg Cathedral) will make its local debut. It will perform a concert that is FREE and open to the public without reservation or ticket.

Last year, Freiburg welcomed hosted a Madison group during a three-day Sister City Festival. Now comes the reciprocal event. The choir has already performed in New York City (the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral) and New York State as well as Washington D.C., and Chicago.

The program includes music by Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Arvo Part, Claude Debussy, Charles-Marie Widor, Henry Purcell, John Rutter and other less well-known or contemporary composers. The impressive Overture Concert Organ (below) will be played by Marjorie Frances Mayo.

The 42 young singers, ages 11-19, will stay with local families.

For more information about the Freiburg Cathedral Girls Choir (below) and its upcoming concert, including specific works on the program, visit:

For more information about other concerts involving the Overture Concert Organ, visit:

Classical Music: Isthmus Vocal Ensemble performs a world premiere by Madison composer Jerry Hui plus music by Mendelssohn, Brahms and other composers Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

July 31, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Over the past decade, the annual concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble (below, in a photo by Jim Pippitt) has become a mid-summer landmark in Madison’s rich classical music scene.

The group does amazing things, especially given that it pulls its annual summer program together in only about two weeks. Its conductor is University of Wisconsin School of Music alumnus Scott MacPherson (below), who flies into town and gets the group rehearsing difficult old and especially new music.

In that short two weeks, the group prepares and presents an interesting and unusual program that typically combines well-known masterpieces with unknown or neglected works as well as world premieres.

The concerts always garner critical acclaim as well as a devoted following, and the part-time even manages to record outstanding and unusual CDs, including a compilation of works by contemporary composer Andrew Rindfleisch and an eclectic, unusual holiday CD called “An Isthmus Christmas.”

For more about the group in general, visit:

This year marks the 11th annual concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble. The event is especially noteworthy because it is a send-off of sorts: It marks the end of the Andrew Taylor’s tenure as president of the group. (He is not singing this summer because of his upcoming career change, but says he hopes to return next summer to sing. You can say hi and thank him at the ticket table, which he will be manning at the two performances.)

Taylor (below), who for 20 years has headed the renowned Arts Administration program at the UW Business School – the first program is its kind in the country — is leaving in August to take up a tenure-track faculty post at American University, which wisely recruited him, in Washington, D.C. For three years in a row, Taylor was named on the national list of the “The 25 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Non-Profit Arts World.”

How the UW-Madison let a teacher and researcher of this caliber and prominence get away is beyond me, but there it is – a subject of regret and a topic for another time.

A typical offering by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, this summer’s program spans five centuries of choral masterworks, and includes a world premiere by Madison local performer Jerry Hui), who is equally at home in early music (he founded and directs the ensemble Eliza’s Toyes) and contemporary music (he is a co-founder and co-director of NEW MUSE or New Music Everywhere).

For this concert, Hui, who just received his doctoral degree at the UW School of Music and composed and staged an Internet opera “Wired for Love” as his thesis, has sets poems by Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker (below in a photo by Bonnie Roub), an “Objectivist” poet who graduated from Beloit College and lived and worked in Fort Atkinson, to music.

The first performance is this Friday, Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the resonant, cathedral-like acoustics of Luther Memorial Church (below), 1021 University Avenue in Madison, where the group promises the air conditioning will be working.

A repeat performance is on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 3 p.m. in the more intimate space of Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 South Segoe Road, on Madison’s near west side.

General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door, or online at:

Here is the impressively varied program, subject to change:

“Richte mich, Gott,” Op. 78, No. 2, by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847); “Parce mihi Domine,” by Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553); Three poems by Lorine Niedecker (world premiere), by Jerry Hui (b. 1981)’ “The Drowned Lovers” (1998, rev. 2009), by Judith Bingham (b. 1952); “The Bluebird”by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924); “Der Abend” (Evening), Op. 62, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897); “Lux caelestis” (Heavenly Light) (2004/2011), by Timothy Kramer (b. 1959)

And for more specifics about the two upcoming performances of this summer’s concert, visit:

Classical music: For Memorial Day – and as a tribute to all veterans — here is the long and moving history of “Taps” from NPR.

May 28, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

In past years, I have posted works of classical music that pay tribute to veterans, their families and those whose suffering we recall and remember on Memorial Day. (Below is a photo of Arlington National Cemetery.)

Here is a link to the Memorial Day posting for 2011:

Here are links to two Memorial Day postings for 2010:

In addition, the National Memorial Day Concert – with hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise — that was broadcast LIVE last night (Sunday) from the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wisconsin Public Television will get an encore presentation tonight at 10:30 p.m. The National Symphony Orchestra will take part. It performs Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings,” among other works.

Here are links to information about that TV broadcast:

But this year I happened upon something else: An extraordinary history on NPR of the moving, emotionally intense bugle call TAPS that will be played many times in many places today.

It is both a personal story of a longtime military bugler for Arlington National Cemetery and a history of a piece of music that spans 150 years, and wears and conflicts going back to the Civil War and more recently the assassination of JFK.

Here is a link to the story:

But I am also not ignoring classical music. If I recall correctly, Leonard Bernstein once commented on how Beethoven used various bugle calls in his Symphony No. 3, the famed “Eroica” that also has a movement that is a “Funeral March for a Hero.” (Part of the technical explanation, I seem to recall, is that the symphony is written in the key of E-flat, which is often the key for brass and especially horns and trumpets.)  

But I am still interested in what piece of classical music you would choose to listen to on Memorial Day as a tribute to veterans. Leave a comment and let us know.

Classical music: How do two scientists became award-winning supporters and funders of music education? Meet the Inhorns of Madison.

January 30, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

In December, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras made Stanley and Shirley Inhorn Lifetime Trustees – an honor bestowed on very few people – in recognition of their 40 years of service to WYSO.

Several other things make the award especially timely and newsworthy.

One is that WYSO will hold an open rehearsal this Saturday in Mills Hall starting at 10 a.m. Music students, families, and teachers are invited to come and see what WYSO has to offer. Guests will be able to talk with WYSO staff and parents of current members, and will get a chance to tour WYSO’s four orchestras in rehearsal. After the tour, guests will have an opportunity to speak with current WYSO members in a Q&A session.  For reservations, call Nicole Sparacino at 608-263-3320 ext. 11. 


Then at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, members of WYSO’s Youth Orchestra, along with the Madison Youth Choirs and other groups and individuals, will perform Wisconsin and Madison premieres of the Holocaust-based oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” by St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus in Overture Hall at the Overture Center. (Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students.)

 For information about both events, reservations or tickets, call 608 258-4141 or visit:

In addition, just last week WYSO announced this year’s winners of the Marvin Rabin Awards, named for the man who founded WYSO in 1966. The Madison Ballet’s W. Earle Smith won the award for Artistic Achievement Award by an Individual and the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Education and Community Engagement program won the award for Artistic Achievement by an Organization.

For more details, visit:

Since 1966, WYSO has been providing excellence in musical opportunities for more than 5,000 young people in southern Wisconsin. WYSO includes three full orchestras and a string orchestra, a chamber music program, a harp program, a percussion ensemble, and a brass choir program. The orchestras rehearse on Saturday mornings during the academic year, perform three to four public concerts per season, and tour regionally, nationally and internationally. The Youth Orchestra will tour to Prague, Vienna and Budapest in July 2012; and has toured to Canada, Japan, Scotland, Spain, France, Colorado, Iowa and Washington, D.C., in the past.

As they usually do, Stanley and Shirley Inhorn collaborated on answering questions about the involvement with music education and WYSO for The Ear:

Can you give short capsule biographies with the highlights of your personal and professional lives?

Both Shirley and Stan came to Madison in 1953.  A graduate of the University of Iowa, Shirley pursued graduate study in Physiological Chemistry.  Stan, a graduate of Western Reserve University and Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons came to do an internship and residency in pathology at Wisconsin General Hospital (now University Hospitals).

After they married in 1954, Stan was called to the Navy as a shipboard medical officer. When his ship was decommissioned, instead of going to Japan Shirley discontinued her graduate training and joined him in San Diego.

Upon returning to Madison, Stan completed his residency and joined the faculty of the UW, where he became a professor of pathology and preventive medicine and also director of the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.

What is your reaction to the WYSO honor of being made Lifetime Trustees?

To say that we were surprised is an understatement.  At the beginning of the January board meeting, WYSO President Charlotte Woods made the announcement and presented us with a beautifully inscribed Waterford plate recognizing our 40 years of service.

Our involvement with WYSO for these many years reflects our recognition of the vital role that WYSO plays in sustaining classical music for talented youth in south-central Wisconsin.

What are the various music groups you work with and what do you work with them.

Shirley and Stan have both been involved with the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Stan played violin in the MSO in the 1960s and 1970s under the baton of Roland Johnson (below). He later joined the MSO Board and has chaired its marketing and education committees.

Shirley was invited to membership in the Women’s Committee of the MSO, predecessor of the MSO League, and served in numerous roles including editorship of the newsletter and directory, membership recruitment, and education. One of her favorite tasks has been to serve as a docent in the public schools to prepare young students for attendance at the MSO youth concerts (below).

We have been major donors to WYSO, MSO and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music. We also currently serve on the Committee for the Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) centennial celebration. Our focus on classical music stems from recognition that current entertainment outlets neglect this important art form. By our example, we hope to energize others to support classical music performance and education.

How and why did you get involved in working with music groups? What kind of role has music played in your lives and careers?

Shirley is a pianist who also played the marimba in high school and college ensembles.  it is not surprising, therefore, that our three children received piano lessons. Stan had played in a string quartet in college, and he transferred his love of this art form to his children.

Our eldest, Lowell, chose to play the violin in grade school and our daughter, Marcia, chose the cello. We encouraged our youngest, Roger, to play the viola. Thus the Inhorn quartet was formed. Shirley was their accompanist when they went to competitions on their individual instruments. It is satisfying to know that Lowell and his wife, along with their two children have formed their own string quartet.

Music has played a major role in our lives.  We have performed as amateur musicians throughout the years.  Music has been significant in our volunteer efforts, our charitable contributions, our leisure activities and in our friendships.

What makes your work with WYSO so important and different from the other commitments?

WYSO affords an opportunity to interact with students, their parents, school and private music teachers, wonderful musicians who serve as conductors and coaches for WYSO, board members, and the public who support the organization.

In its early days, WYSO operated with a very small staff, necessitating substantial volunteer involvement. We firmly belief that the WYSO experience develops qualities of dedication and discipline that will serve the students throughout their lives.

We are always pleased when WYSO members go on to careers as professional musicians. But we also know that the WYSO experience is formative for those who go into other careers, as was the case for our three children.

In addition, we are confident that WYSO is helping to build future audiences for symphonic music.  Lastly, WYSO is an important advocate for the school music programs that are threatened as schools face fiscal crises.

What do you want other people to know about doing such work with community and arts groups?

Our philosophy regarding volunteer activity is to first determine the organizations that meet your primary interests and afford you greatest satisfaction.  Direct your efforts to those that provide the most fulfillment, and stay the course for the duration. Recognize that in every organization there will be issues with which you disagree.  It is important, however, to seek solutions rather than abandoning the ship.

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