By Jacob Stockinger
It’s the holidays.
At a time when so much music for the holiday season is predictable from year to year, here is a kind of music that is unusual – at least to The Ear.
Apparently, for some years now Christmas has been a time to celebrate the tuba (below) worldwide.
The music they play isn’t classical, but it is seasonal. And it is a good excuse to celebrate and orchestral instrument and member of the brass family that too often goes largely unnoticed.
If you go to YouTube and type in TubaChristmas, you can find samples of TubaChristmas celebrations and concerts in Chicago, Portland, Rochester, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C. and many more.
The Ear hasn’t heard if there is a TubaChristmas celebration in Madison or anywhere else in Wisconsin. If there is, please leave word in the COMMENT section.
Below is a photo from Getty Images of more than 400 tuba players – called “tubists” in the profession – who gathered in Chicago for 2003 Tuba Christmas. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear tubas playing carols at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago in 2013.)
Maybe you knew about it, but The Ear sure didn’t, even though he should have.
It is a fine story about the event – complete with some tuba music — along with its origin and some background about the tuba.
And let us now what you think of the tuba and of TubaChristmas.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Grace Presents, now entering its seventh year offering FREE public concerts at Grace Episcopal Church (below), located at 116 West Washington Avenue on the Capitol Square, will host resident organist Mark Brampton Smith with violinist Maureen McCarty on this Saturday, Nov. 19.
The concert begins at noon and ends at 1 p.m. Audience members are invited to bring their lunch.
The program — an asterisk indicates that both the violin and organ will play — includes:
Psalm 19: “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” by Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739)
Partita on “Werde munter, mein Gemüte” (Sing not yet, my soul, to slumber) by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
*”Ornament of Grace” by Bernard Wayne Sanders (b. 1957)
Variations on ‘Cwm Rhondda’ by Mark Brampton Smith (b. 1954) Introduction – Allegro – Duo – Reflection – Finale
*Meditation from “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Concerto in a minor, after Vivaldi (BWV 593) – Johann Sebastian Bach Allegro
Toccata and Fugue in d minor (BWV 565) – Johann Sebastian Bach
The final concert of 2016 will feature the widely renowned Russian Folk Orchestra on Dec. 10.
Mark Brampton Smith Biography:
Mark Brampton Smith (below) serves as the current organist at Grace Episcopal Church. Mark began his church music career as a boy soprano at St. Paul’s Parish on K Street in Washington, D.C., eventually serving on the music staff of churches in seven states. He holds degrees in organ performance from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan.
As an organist, Mark won prizes in the Fort Wayne, Ann Arbor, and American Guild of Organists National Competitions, and he’s performed solo recitals at venues such as Overture Hall. As a collaborative pianist, Mark has worked with numerous singers, instrumentalists, and ensembles, including the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, University of Michigan choirs, Colgate University Chorus, and currently the Wisconsin Chamber Choir.
Maureen McCarty Biography:
Maureen McCarty (below) began the violin in the Madison public schools, and played in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras for many years. She received a BA in violin performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
While working on her degree, she performed as a musician with American Players Theatre for five seasons. She has extensive orchestral experience playing in such local ensembles as the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, as well as various orchestras in five Midwestern states, the Barcelona City Orchestra and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria in Spain.
Maureen returned to UW-Madison for a teaching certificate in music education in 1999, and taught strings and general music for students in grades 3-12 in Monona Grove during her fifteen years in the district. Recently retired from public school teaching, she now teaches privately, performs with the Camerata String Quartet, tutors Spanish, and takes photographs for her local newspaper. Formative violin teachers include Eva Szekely, Sharan Leventhal, Thomas Moore and Vartan Manoogian.
For more information, visit www.GracePresents.org
By Jacob Stockinger
They will be in effect for the three MSO concerts this weekend, including the performance today, Sunday, Sept. 25, at 2:30 p.m.
For more information about the program, visit this link:
“Due to changes in the Overture Center’s security procedures, there will be only THREE main entry points into the building (below) as you come for your concert. When you arrive, please enter at:
• The main Overture Center entrance on State Street
• An entrance on Fairchild Street (one door only)
• The “back” entrance on Henry Street
Security stations will be placed at each entrance where Overture staff will conduct a bag search on bags larger than a small purse, including backpacks.
We anticipate that the process will be smooth and proceed quickly, although we do recommend you come early for peace of mind so you can enjoy the concert from start to finish!
For more information on the Overture Center’s security measures, please visit the website at overturecenter.org/about/security
The Ear wonders what effect these new security measures will have on attendance at the symphony, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra concerts, the Madison Opera, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society and other non-musical events.
The Ear would like to know if the new security measures come in response to an actual terrorist threat or are simply a new standard operating procedure. The published explanation leans to the latter and says the Overture Center was to take the same precautions that big presenters in, say New York City and Washington, D.C., do.
Does anyone have more information or an opinion?
What do you think about the necessity or desirability of such measures ?
And what was your experience like with the new procedures?
The Ear wants to hear.
In the meantime, this afternoon is your last chance to hear the program that generally gets very positive reviews.
Here is the review that John W. Barker (below) wrote for Isthmus:
And here is the review that Jessica Courtier wrote for The Capital Times:
By Jacob Stockinger
He is generally acknowledged as the greatest writer of all time and of any culture.
The English poet and playwright William Shakespeare (below) died 400 years ago today – on April 23, 1616 — in his hometown of Stratford-on-Avon where he returned to after his stage career in London. He was 52 years old.
You may have heard that a touring copy of the rare 1623 First Folio edition of his plays, on loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., will be on display this fall at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dates of the exhibit are Nov. 3-Dec. 11, 2016.
Here is a link with more information:
And this summer’s Madison Early Music Festival will focus on Shakespeare and music of the Elizabethan Age when it is held from July 9 to July 16.
Here is more information about that event:
Today, what The Ear wants to know is what is your favorite piece of music inspired by Shakespeare?
The Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn? (The Ear loves that richly atmospheric work. You can hear it, complete with the braying of the “rude mechanical” human who is transformed into a donkey — in a YouTube video at the bottom)
The operas ”Otello” or “Falstaff” by Giuseppe Verdi?
The opera versions of “Romeo and Juliet” by Hector Berlioz and Charles Gounod?
The incidental music to “Henry V,” “Hamlet” and “Richard III” by William Walton?
Franz Schubert’s song “Where is Sylvia”?
The “Romeo and Juliet” Fantasy Overture by Tchaikovsky?
Various setting of songs and ditties in Shakespeare’s plays?
If you need something to jog your memory about possible choices, here is a link:
Leave your choice, with a YouTube link if possible, in the COMMENTS section.
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
ALERT: TUESDAY is the last day for the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s special sale — two tickets for the price of one — for its Valentine’s Day concerts coming up this weekend. Read more about the players and program below.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear has received the following press release from the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below). To be honest, he cares less about the Valentine’s Day tie-ins – some of which seem tenuous – than about hearing the Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova in the Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven.
The Ear had heard all the of the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano played by Ibragimova, with Belgian pianist Cedric Tiberghien, and thinks they rank right at the top of recorded versions. Plus, they are live!
She is clearly something very special, so The Ear says: Don’t miss her. (You can hear Alina Ibragimova and her forceful but subtle style — perfectly suited to Beethoven — in the first movement of Beethoven’s famous “Kreutzer” Sonata in a YouTube video at the bottom.)
Now on to the overview, written under the headline:
“Music, the food of love” permeates Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Valentine’s Weekend Concerts on Feb. 12, 13 and 14
Love’s attractions and dilemmas infuse the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Valentine’s weekend concerts Feb. 12, 13 and 14. They feature the Madison debut of Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova in Overture Hall.
Guest conductor Daniel Hege will lead the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and substitute for music director John DeMain. (NOTE: John DeMain is in Washington, D.C., conducting a production of Kurt Weill‘s “Lost in the Stars” for the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It opens next week.)
Ludwig van Beethoven’s hugely influential Romantic-era Violin Concerto brings the concert to a thrilling close with technical fireworks.
The concerts are in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, 201 State St., on this Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Born in Russia, the young violinist Alina Ibragimova (below) rapidly established herself as a first-rate soloist and chamber musician with the world’s foremost ensembles. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper called her “one of the most technically gifted and charismatic instrumentalists of the age.” A highly flexible and adaptable musician, Ibragimova is equally at home on modern and baroque period instruments, and frequently tours as both soloist and director. She was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award in 2010.
The concerts cover three different periods of music.
The program begins with the late Romantic period with the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (below). The work taps into the great Shakespearean play, contrasting the rivalry between the Capulet and Montague families, with the passionate music of the second theme clearly expressing the feelings of the two young lovers.
The Impressionistic period is represented the sensuous Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 by Maurice Ravel (below). It recounts the stirring fifth-century BCE Greek story of Daphnis and Chloe, who were abandoned as children and brought up by shepherds. The two fall in love, but Chloe is abducted by pirates. After Daphnis rescues Chloe, the couple pantomimes the tale of Pan wooing the nymph Syrinx as the sun rises. Ravel’s score originally accompanied a ballet premiered by the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1912.
Finally, the early Romantic period is featured with the technically challenging Violin Concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven (below top) which premiered in 1806. A work of beauty, the concerto did not become popular until several decades later, thanks to the advocacy of the legendary violinist Joseph Joachim (below bottom). Beethoven’s only violin concerto, this work paved the way for the great 19th-century German violin concertos by Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch and Johannes Brahms.
Known for his novel interpretations of standard repertoire, Colorado native Daniel Hege (below) is Music Director and Conductor of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and a frequent guest conductor of orchestras throughout the United States including the Houston, Detroit, Seattle and Indianapolis symphonies.
One hour before each performance, Randal Swiggum (below), artistic director of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, will lead a FREE 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience.
More background on the music can also be found in the Program Notes by MSO trombonist Michael Allsen at: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ibragimova
Single Tickets are $16 to $85 each, available at http://www.madisonsymphony.org/ibragimova and through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street or call the Box Office at (608) 258-4141.
Groups of 15 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734.
For more information visit, www.madisonsymphony.org/groups
Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $12 or $15 tickets. More information is at: www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush. Students can receive 20% savings on seats in select areas of the hall on advance ticket purchases.
Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
Major funding for the February concerts is provided by Irving and Dorothy Levy Family Foundation, Inc., Johnson Bank, and Cyrena and Lee Pondrom. Additional funding is provided by John A. Johnson Foundation, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation, Gary and Lynn Mecklenburg, and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
By Jacob Stockinger
Today marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and the tragic events during the terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States, in New York City on the Twin Towers; on Washington, D.C,, and the Pentagon; and on United Airlines Flight 93, which passengers made crash into a Pennsylvania field before it could destroy the U.S. Capitol or White House.
There is a lot of great classical music that one could play to commemorate the event and loss of life. There are, of course, requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Giuseppe Verdi and Gabriel Faure.
There are masses and other choral works by them and also Ludwig van Beethoven and others. And there are a lot of opera arias and choruses as well as art songs.
There are large-scale symphonic and choral work as well as more intimate chamber music and solo works, especially the solo cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of which, thanks to cellist Vedran Smailovic (below) in 1992, became am emblem of the awful and bloody siege of Sarajevo by the Serbian army. Chamber music by Franz Schubert — such as the slow movement of the Cello Quintet — would at the top of my list.
Then there is the contemporary work “In the Transmigration of Souls” by the American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was written specifically, on commission from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to remember 9/11 and which uses actual tape recordings of the events and responses of that awful day. And another work by Steve Reich.
Myself, I tend towards the tried-and-true, the pieces of music that never fail to take me to the appropriate place in memory and sorrow.
So today, at the bottom, I offer a YouTube video of the last movement of the profoundly beautiful and moving “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms. It is more secular than religious, and it asserts that “Blessed Are the Dead … for They Rest from Their Labors and Their Works Shall Live After Them.”
Hard to disagree, don’t you think?
So here it is.
But be sure to let us know what music you will be playing and what piece or pieces you favor to commemorate 9/11.
By Jacob Stockinger
The Ear likes that a new season at the University of Wisconsin School of Music will officially open in an intimate rather than grand manner with a chamber music concert.
At 8 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall on this Saturday, Sept. 6, flutist Stephanie Jutt (below) will perform Latin American music plus a classic masterpiece sonata by Johannes Brahms. The concert is FREE and OPEN to the public.
Jutt, who is a longtime professor the UW-Madison School of Music, is also the principal flute of the Madison Symphony Orchestra as well as a co-founder and co-artistic director of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which performs each summer in June. She also performs in the Wingra Woodwind Quintet (below, in a photo by Michael Anderson) at the UW-Madison.
On this program, Jutt and Venezuelan pianist Elena Abend will offer audiences a look at some of the beautiful and spicy music written by Latin American composers, including Argentinean composers Carlos Guastavino (below top), Astor Piazzolla (below middle) and Angel Lasala (below bottom).
Jutt recently traveled to Argentina to research this repertoire, and will be recording it with Elena Abend later this year in New York City.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, pianist Elena Abend (below) has performed with all the major orchestras of her country. Receiving her Bachelor and Master degrees from the Juilliard School, she has performed at venues such as the Purcell Room in London’s Royal Festival Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Academy of Music with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the Wigmore Hall in London, Toulouse Conservatoire, Theatre Luxembourg, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., Chicago Cultural Center and the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.
More performances include Ravinia and Marlboro Music Festivals, live broadcasts on Philadelphia’s WFLN, The Dame Myra Hess Concert Series on Chicago’s WFMT and Wisconsin Public Radio at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison. She has recorded for the Avie label and numerous recording and editing projects for Hal Leonard’s G. Schirmer Instrumental Library and Schirmer Performance Editions.
Elena Abend currently serves on the Piano and Chamber Music Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Milonga en Re (at bottom in a YouTube video) Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Tanguano Astor Piazzolla (1912-1992)
Introduccion y Allegro Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000)
With ELENA ABEND, PIANO
Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 120 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) as arranged for flute by Stephanie Jutt
With UW Piano Professor CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR (below)
Poema del Pastor Coya Angel Lasala (1914-2000)
Con la Chola y el Changuito Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000)
Fuga e Misterio Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
By Jacob Stockinger
I was going through some old papers and found something I thought that I had somehow lost or that had been stolen: An autographed card from Ukrainian-born superstar pianist Vladimir Horowitz from a concert he gave in Washington, D.C., in 1973.
Here it is:
But I have no idea of the price it would bring on today’s market. Maybe a look on Ebay could tell me.
Not that I want to sell it. Its sentimental value is priceless. A family member gave it to me. He collected it especially for me, and then sent it out of affection for me and for my love of playing the piano.
Still, I wonder: How much is it worth? True, it is not signed on a program or recording. But it does have a date and is an official autograph card with a printed version of his name on it. (Below is Vladimir Horowitz bowing to a packed house in Carnegie Hall.)
I have had it framed. and will keep it in a secure place, and I hope it will inspire me to play better.
I am also sorry I never collected an autograph from Artur Rubinstein (below) during the several times I heard him perform.
In the meantime, I would welcome any educated guess or documented estimate of the value of this Horowitz autograph.
Finding it again, 41 years after it was signed and almost 25 years after the death of Horowitz (below, in his later years and towards the end of his career), is pretty lucky for me, don’t you think?
Do you have a favorite?
The Ear wants to hear.
By Jacob Stockinger
Performances take place in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Music Hall (below) on Bascom Hill — a venue that is more or less historically contemporary with G&S operas — on this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m.; and on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.
For more information, including tickets, here is a link to the Savoyards’ homepage:
I have so far been unable to attend the opera this summer, but here is a link to a very positive review by John W. Barker (below), who often writes for this blog, that appeared in Isthmus:
Here is a link to my earlier post for the first week of the production:
And here is a Q&A that Evan Richards (below), the secretary of the Madison Savoyards’ board of directors as well as the videographer and webmaster, did via email for The Ear. (Richards also took the photos of the production of “Iolanthe” on today’s post.) And at bottom is a YouTube video of Evan Richards talking in 2011 about the Madison Savoyards.
You might have also heard him last week on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Midday” during his very informative and entertaining interview with hosts Norman Gilliland, so here is a link to that interview:
Why did the Madison Savoyards want to do “Iolanthe” this summer
2013 marks the beginning of the second 50 years of the Madison Savoyards. The first performance of the Madison Savoyards in 1963 was “Iolanthe,” so we felt it fitting that we begin our second 50 years with the same opera. It was also due to be performed; the last performance was in 2001.
The Savoyards have a plan to produce all the G&S operas at least once between 2007 and 2020.
The more familiar and popular ones tend to be performed more often than the less known ones because it helps keep our bank balance black. But we feel our mission is to perform them all. Sometimes the obscure ones surprise us by drawing a larger audience than we expect, as was the case with
“Utopia Limited” (below) in 2011, in its second Madison Savoyards production.
“The Mikado” is the most popular of all, in the US, in the UK, and around the world. The US has had a particular fondness for “The Pirates” since it was first performed here, and that has only increased in recent times with the Joseph Papp production in New York which brought it to the attention of many who were not familiar with G&S. “Iolanthe” came after “Pinafore” and “Pirates” (and “Patience”) and represents a more developed period in the G&S output.
By the time “Iolanthe” came along, both Gilbert and Sullivan (below, with Sullivan on the left)) were rich, having an income over time to rival the Prime Minister’s. Gilbert was building a new mansion with four bathrooms, central heating and a telephone.
The music is more sophisticated, as is the writing. The political satire is particularly sharp and, given the current partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., particularly timely. One can make a case that it represents a peak of their achievement, but I would admit I would make a similar case for several other of their operas.
What can you tell briefly about the plot and roles of “Iolanthe”?
Very briefly, we are dealing with fairyland, lawyers and the House of Lords (below), all of which are not connected with the real world. The plot is really rather dark and could have easily ended very badly, if it were not for the sudden turn at the end.
The roles are recognizable G&S characters, for example, the Lord Chancellor has the patter song, the famous “Nightmare” song, one of the best of all G&S patter songs.
What would you like to say about the cast, sets, costumes and other aspects of the production?
The sets and costumes are wonderful. The cast has some Savoyard veterans and some who are making their debut with us. It has all come together very well.
What kinds of shape in the Savoyards in after The Great Recession now that recovery is underway? What do future plans include?
Our bank balance is in the black, where we like to keep it. We plan multi-year cycles, so the popular show income can compensate for the obscure show losses. We have a wonderful and loyal band of followers who buy tickets and contribute. We have a board of directors that watches the expenses carefully to get the most out of every penny. So we weathered the storm rather well.
Future plans include performing all of the G&S operas between 2007 and 2020, and we are working on a collaboration with the Madison Ballet to mount “Pineapple Poll” in 2015.
Is there more you would like to say or add?
Don’t miss “Iolanthe” because it is a great show and it has not been seen in Madison for a dozen years. The music is Sullivan at his best, the words are Gilbert at his best, and the combination is better than the sum of each. So don’t miss it.
By Jacob Stockinger
Tonight, Wednesday, July 3, at 7 p.m. on the King Street corner of the downtown Capitol Square in Madison, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s second Concert of the Square (below), under conductor Andrew Sewell — a native New Zealander who is now a naturalized American citizen — will celebrate the Fourth of July.
Also tonight, with fireworks beginning at 9:30 p.m., the radio-broadcast soundtrack for the gigantic regional celebration Rhythm and Booms show (below) in Madison’s Warner Park will no doubt include the same piece, or at least its finale.
For more information about that event, including the official traffic plans, here is a link: http://www.rhythmandbooms.com
And tomorrow night, Thursday, July 4, at 7 p.m., Wisconsin Public Television will also broadcast PBS’ live coverage of “A Capitol Fourth,” the Fourth of July concert from Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here is a link with information about the event and the performers, who include singers Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Jackie Evancho as well as composer John Williams conducting the National Symphony Orchestra.
And like Fourth of July concerts all over the country, all of those concerts or musical celebrations will likely once again end with a rousing version of the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky (below) with cannon shots booming and church bells ringing – perhaps with a Sousa march for an encore. (At bottom is the most popular YouTube video of The 1812 Overture that has more than 1.5 million hits.)
The rest of tonight’s Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s “Red, White and Blue” program features piano soloist Michael Mizrahi (below) playing what The Ear calls The Gershwin Card. (Next spring, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will also play The Gershwin Card to close its upcoming season that will mark the 20th anniversary of maestro John DeMain‘s tenure.)
I use the term The Gershwin Card to mean a kind of appealing crossover programming of the tuneful and jazzy music by George Gershwin (below) that draws big audiences like pops and is easy to digest like pops, but also has a more serious side and is closer to having a classical pedigree than being pops.
In particular, the WCO concert features Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “I Got Rhythm” Variations as well as Robert Lowden’s “Armed Forces Salute.”
So far, so American!
But how did music celebrating a Russian victory over Napoleon (below, seen in painting retreating in defeat from Moscow) and the French army in 1812 become so emblematic of the Fourth of July and American independence?
Well, like the American Revolution itself, the musical tradition started in Boston.
Only much, much later.
Care to take a guess?
Here is a link to the story as told to NPR’s Scott Simon on last Saturday morning’s “Weekend Edition”:
For more information about this second Concert on the Square go to this page, which also has information about the entire series and the remaining four concerts: