The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival celebrates local ecological restoration with “water music”

August 22, 2016
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is an overview of the upcoming 27th Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which starts this Saturday, Aug. 27, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 4.

TOKEN CREEK, WIS. – Years in the planning, summer 2016 marks the completion of a major ecological restoration project on the Token Creek Festival property in the northeast corner of Dane County, part of the watersheds vital to the hydrology of Madison and southeastern Wisconsin.

TokenCreekentrance

TokenCreekbarn interior

During the 1930s, one of the most important feeder streams in the area, and its only cold-water trout stream, was ruined when it was widened to support short-lived commercial interests and development. Now, decades later, in a monumental effort, that stream has at long last been relocated, restored and rescued.

Festival-goers will be able to experience the project firsthand on the opening weekend, when each concert is preceded by an optional stroll along the new stream, with conversation guided by restoration ecologists and project managers.

Celebrating this monumental ecological project, the season theme of this year’s Token Creek Chamber Music Festival is: Water Music. Virtually all of the works programmed evoke brooks and streams and rivers and water in its many forms, with its ritual meanings, associations, allusions, and as metaphor.

In keeping with the theme, the Festival has adopted Franz Schubert (below) as the summer’s featured composer. His poetic, melancholic, ultimately organic and inevitable relationship to the natural world was expressed in composition after composition, wedded to his intense involvement with the poetry of his era, itself so infatuated with birds, fields, clouds and streams.

Franz Schubert big

The second program emphasis continues the festival’s most persistent theme: the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach1

Three strands of Bach’s music previously explored at Token Creek will be taken up again. We will present our third complete cantata performance, O heiliges Geist und Wasserbad, a mysterious and poetic piece from early in the composer’s career, with soloists from the Madison Choral Project (below).

Madison Choral Project color

We will conclude our survey of the three Bach violin concertos, this year the E major, co-artistic director Rose Mary Harbison (below top) again as soloist. And we take up our sequence of fugues from The Art of Fugue, co-artistic director and composer John Harbison (below bottom), who has won the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “genius grant,” adding three more to his personal odyssey with this work, due to conclude in 2030.

RosemaryHarbison

JohnHarbisonatpiano

NEW ARTISTS

Token Creek is pleased to introduce several new artists this season, including Grammy Award-nominated mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore, who has been praised for her “glorious instrument” and dubbed an “undisputed star…who has it all – looks, intelligence, musicianship, personality, technique, and a voice of bewitching amber color.”

Ms. Lattimore will offer works of Franz Schubert and John Harbison on the Festival’s opening concerts, By the Brook (August 27 and 28), where she will be joined by pianist Molly Morkoski.

www.margaretlattimore.net

Margaret Lattimore

Ms. Morkoski (below), who last appeared at Token Creek in 2013, consistently garners praise for her refined virtuosity and “the bold confidence and interactive grace one wants in a devoted chamber music maker.” In addition to the opening program, Morkoski will also be heard on the season finale in Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet (Sept. 2 and 4).

http://www.mollymorkoski.com/

molly morkoski

On that same concert, tenor William Hite and pianist Kayo Iwama join forces in Schubert’s devastating and tragic song cycle, Die Schöne Müllerin (The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter), in which a brook functions prominently as the protagonist’s confidante. (You can hear the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing “The Miller and the Brook” from the flowing song cycle in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini has called Hite (below) a “breathtaking communicator of spoken nuance” for his ability to reveal the meaning and emotion embodied in the text and the music, solidifying his reputation as an engaging and expressive artist.

http://www.williamhitetenor.com/

william hite

Kayo Iwama (below) is associate director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music graduate vocal arts program, the master’s degree program for classical singers, and she also coordinates the vocal studies program at the Tanglewood Music Center. Her frequent concert partners include Dawn Upshaw and Lucy Shelton.

http://www.bard.edu/academics/faculty/details/?action=details&id=1838

Kayo Iwama

VIOLS AND WILLIAM WARTMANN

Finally, the “technically faultless and consistently sensitive and expressive,” consort of viols, Second City Musick (below), based in Chicago, will offer a guest recital on Tuesday, Aug. 30, anchored by John Harbison’s The Cross of Snow.

Craig Trompeter, Russell Wagner, Anna Steinhoff at the Planetarium, Chicago, May 30, 2013

Craig Trompeter, Russell Wagner, Anna Steinhoff at the Planetarium, Chicago, May 30, 2013

Commissioned by local businessman and philanthropist William John Wartmann (below) in memory of his wife, mezzo-soprano Joyce Wartmann, this evocative new piece, on texts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, blends the ethereal lushness of violas da gamba with the haunting clarity of the countertenor voice, here Nathan Medley (below bottom), to explore the emotions of grief, loss and love.

wiiliam wartmann

Nathan Medley

At its first performance in Chicago last May, a local critic praised both the work and the musicians: “The Chicago-based ensemble was ideally suited to premiere this profoundly affecting work, and the shared sensibility between composer and performers was noticeable.”

Tuesday’s program will also include works of Henry Purcell, William Byrd, John Jenkins and Johann Sebastian Bach.

www.secondcitymusick.org

Other festival artists this season include vocalists Rachel Warricke, Sarah Leuwerke, Daniel O’Dea, and Nathan Krueger; violinists Rose Mary Harbison, Laura Burns, and Isabella Lippi; Jen Paulson, viola; Karl Lavine, cello; Ross Gilliland, bass; Linda Kimball, horn; and John Harbison, piano.

HERE ARE FESTIVAL PROGRAMS AT A GLANCE:

Program 1: By the Brook – Schubert, Bach and Harbison

Saturday, Aug. 27: 6:45 p.m. – optional guided stream stroll*; 8 p.m. – concert

Sunday, Aug. 28:  2:45 p.m. – optional guided stream stroll*; 4 p.m. – concert

*(The stream stroll is free, but reservations are recommended)

Program 2: Music for Viols, Then & Now

Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Program 3: Water Colors = Two Schubert Masterworks

Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.

Concert tickets are $32 (students $12). The preview stream stroll on opening weekend is free to concertgoers, but advance reservations are recommended.

Reservations can be made in several ways:

  • Online:    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/token-creek-chamber-music-festival-2016-tickets-26070692142
  • Website (printable order form): www.tokencreekfestival.org
  • Phone: 608-241-2525 (voicemail only, please leave a message)
  • Email: info@tokencreekfestival.org
  • U.S. mail: P.O. Box 5201, Madison WI, 53705

Performances take place at the Festival Barn, on Highway 19 near the hamlet of Token Creek (10 minutes north of Madison) with ample parking available. The venue, indoors and air-conditioned, is invitingly small—early reservations are recommended.

Token Creek 2011 Mozart Trio, Levin, Harbison, Ryder

More information about the Token Creek Festival and all events and artists can be found at the website, www.tokencreekfestival.org or by calling 608 241-2525.


Classical music: Madison Symphony Orchestra holds a FREE Farmers’ Market organ and piano concert this Saturday at 11 a.m.

July 7, 2016
Leave a Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Art Fair on the Square, the annual summer fundraiser held by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, will displace the usual Dane County Farmers’ Market this Saturday morning around the Capitol Square downtown,

But the second of this summer’s three monthly FREE Farmers’ Market organ concerts, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will take place this Saturday at 11a.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center for the Arts.

The MSO invites families and friends for a relaxing 45-minute concert.

No tickets or reservations are needed and all ages are welcome.

The concert features music for piano and organ and is billed as: “The Über Steinway Meets the Colossal Klais II” with pianist Stephen Nielson (below left) and organist Samuel Hutchison (below right).

Stephen Nielson with Samuel Hutchison

The program includes: A Mighty Fortress is Our God, arr. Nielson and Young; Water Music Suite by George Frideric Handel; Hungarian Etude, Op. 39, by Edward MacDowell; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata No. 147 by Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. Myra Hess; O Polichinelle from Prole do Bebe by Heitor Villa-Lobos; Simple Gifts, arr. Charles Callahan; Fugue in D Major, BWV 532, by Johann Sebastian Bach (heard in the YouTube video at the bottom); When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, arr. Nielson & Young; Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, arr. Nielson and Young

Support for all Overture Concert Organ programs is provided by the Diane Endres Ballweg Fund.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

American pianist Stephen Nielson made his orchestral debut as a pianist at age 11. During a 30-year collaboration with his late colleague, Ovid Young, Nielson performed more than 3,500 concerts world-wide as part of the distinguished piano duo Nielson & Young.

Since 2001, Samuel Hutchison has served as Curator and Principal Organist for Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Overture Concert Organ. As an organ soloist, Hutchison has presented many recitals both in the United States and in Europe

For more information about the event and the performers, visit: http://www.madisonsymphony.org/farmer


Classical music: The Ear needs your help. Rank major Baroque composers Bach, Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi in terms of enjoyability and quality.

September 18, 2015
23 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Uh-oh.

Last week, The Ear struck a nerve.

He commented that he sometimes wished that the Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann (below) – the most prolific composer ever of classical music – had composed less because he might have composed even more compelling music.

georg philipp telemann

Here is a link to that post, which also featured Telemann’s lovely Concerto for Viola in G Major, which The Ear finds quite beautiful and engaging. 

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/classical-music-you-must-hear-this-the-concerto-for-viola-by-georg-philipp-telemann/

Of course what I said was considered heresy by some. I heard some pretty strong rebukes from devout Telemann fans and -– no surprise -– a Telemann scholar.

It’s not that The Ear doesn’t listen to music by Telemann or like many of his works. (One such work is Telemann’s own “Water Music,” which stands comparison to Handel’s “Water Music” and which you can hear in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

But he has to be honest: Telemann is just not tops on his playlist.

Consider the Big Four of Baroque composers (in alphabetical order):

Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach1

George Frideric Handel

Handel etching

Georg Philipp Telemann

and Antonio Vivaldi

vivaldi

When The Ear looks over his CD collection and reviews his listening habits, he finds that what he most often listens to and what he likes best, falls in to the follow ranking: 1. Bach, 2. Vivaldi, 3. Handel and 4. Telemann.

True, Handel would probably rank a spot higher if The Ear really listened to his operas. But even Bach turned to Vivaldi for insights into composing.

So here is what The Ear wants to know:

When you listen to the four Baroque composers, what is the ranking of the four for frequency of listening and enjoyability?

And how do you rank them in terms of quality?

Granted, this business of ranking artists is something of a parlor game. And the results will hardly be definitive in proving anything.

But just maybe others will see that The Ear is not alone in his opinion about the comparative virtues of Telemann, who is certainly a major composer.

So leave your views and ranking in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear!


Classical music: Virtuoso trumpeter and Empire Brass founder Rolf Smedvig dies suddenly at 62. The Empire Brass plays with the Overture Center Concert Organ on Tuesday, May 12.

May 2, 2015
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Rolf Smedvig, the Norwegian-Icelandic trumpeter extraordinaire, died suddenly this past week at age 62, apparently of a heart attack.

Once the young principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony and renowned soloist, he also cofounded and played with the Empire Brass.

rolf smedvig

Passing along the news seems especially timely and appropriate since the Empire Brass will perform in Overture Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.

Tickets are $20. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141.

Empire Brass

The brass ensemble will perform with organist Douglas Major (below top), former organist at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,  at the console of the Overture Center Concert Organ (below bottom).

Douglas Major

Overture Concert Organ overview

The program is a delightfully and largely Baroque one, which should highlight the brass sound. It features music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Tomaso Albinoni, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Pachelbel and Dietrich Buxtehude and Henry Purcell. (You can hear the Empire Brass, with Rolf Smedvig, performing Handel’s “Water Music” in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

But one wonders: Is there a substitute for Rolf Smedvig? Or has the brass group changed its membership since the publicity photo? It sounds like the latter is the case, but The Ear doesn’t know for sure. Do you?

Here is a link for more information about the Madison concert:

http://www.madisonsymphony.org/empire

Here is a link to a terrific obituary and feature profile done by Tm Huizenga for the Deceptive Cadence blog on National Public Radio (NPR).

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2015/04/28/402836867/dazzling-trumpeter-rolf-smedvig-dies-suddenly

 

 


Classical music: The early music group Ensemble Musical Offering of Milwaukee will make its Madison debut this Sunday in an all-Handel program. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s FREE “Final Forte” concerto competition is tonight at 7 on Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, and University of Wisconsin-Madison violist Mikko Utevsky performs a FREE recital Thursday night at Capitol Lakes.

March 26, 2014
3 Comments

ALERTS:  Our good friend and frequent contributor Mikko Utevsky writes: Dear Friends, I am giving a viola recital this Thursday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Capitol Lakes Retirement Community (333 West Main Street, near the Capitol Square). The program includes works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Ernest Bloch (the Suite Hebraïque), and viola sonatas of Johannes Brahms (Op. 120, No. 2) and Darius Milhaud (No. 1). I will be joined by pianists Jeff Gibbens and Adam Kluck. I hope the short notice will not prevent some of you from joining me there. Best, Mikko

Also, The Madison Symphony Orchestra‘s “Final Forte” young artist competition will be broadcast LIVE tonight at 7 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio.

For more details, here is a link to a previous post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/classical-music-education-can-you-pass-nprs-bach-puzzler-also-wednesday-night-is-the-free-concert-and-live-broadcasts-of-the-madison-symphony-orchestras-final-forte-concert-of-high/

MAYCO Mikko Utevsky by Steve Rankin

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 hosts 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.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker 

Here’s a Handelian heads-up, and with a Madison accent!

The Milwaukee-based Ensemble Musical Offering is to make its first appearance in Madison on this Sunday afternoon, March 30, at 2 p.m., at the First Unitarian Society of Madison’s new and crisply designed Atrium auditorium (below, in a photo by Zane Williams) at 900 University Bay Drive.

Tickets are $15, payable at the door, and available in advance from www.ensemblemusicaloffering.org or by calling (414) 258-6133.

FUS Atrium, Auditorium Zane Williams

The group, whose supplemental title is the Midwest Bande for Early Music, was founded in 2000 by harpsichordist and director Joan Parsley.  As she herself defines the ensemble: “Its mission is to foster appreciation for early music, circa 1580-1750, through professional performance on period instruments, educational activities, and community outreach.”

Winner of several grants, the ensemble not only performs regularly in its home city, but supports the Greater Milwaukee Baroque Festival, which is a competition for students of string and keyboard instruments, plus a one-week Summer Baroque Institute. 

The instrumental membership of the ensemble (below) consists of about 10 players — divided between strings and winds — including harpsichord.  All play baroque instruments, and use the one player per part approach.

Ensemble Musical Offering

For their Madison appearance, the EMO will present a program aptly titled “Hallmarks of Handel.”  It will contain a balanced survey of the great composer’s instrumental and vocal music. 

The most familiar music will be the G-major Suite, the third and last division of George Frideric Handel’s beloved and popular “Water Music” (at bottom in a YouTube video played on modern instruments by Sir Neville Marriner and the Acadmey of St. Martin in the Fields) — the set that features only woodwinds, without brass, against the strings.

handel big 3

There will also be no less than two of the Op. 3, Concerti Grossi, Nos. 4 and 6, which give strong roles to winds (as well as harpsichord in the latter).  It will be interesting to hear these works, usually treated as “orchestral,” in this more intimate chamber-music character.

One more instrumental work is a composite of music that Handel used in his opera “Ottone.”  Because of the prominence of the bassoon in the scoring, it will be presented in this program as a Sinfonia for Bassoon, Strings and Continuo.

The other side of the program is vocal, and touches upon what was, for Handel, his major areas of composition, his Italian operas and English oratorios.  There will be two arias drawn from Handel’s first London triumph, “Rinaldo,” composed in 1711.

The oratorio realm will be represented indirectly.  The program will allow a rare opportunity to hear examples of some two-dozen chamber duets and trios, with continuo, that Handel composed over the years to Italian texts, following patterns set by role model Agostino Steffani.

Handel seemed to use these brief, three-movement mini-cantatas as tryouts of some vocal ideas, and he then incorporated many of those ideas into larger works. The two to be offered, composed in July 1741, contain musical germs that Handel allowed to blossom as three choral movements in “Messiah,” composed later that year.  Listeners will surely be surprised and delighted to recognize those inimitably Handelian ideas in their first form.

Though headquartered in Milwaukee, the EMO draws upon musicians from beyond their city, as, indeed, so many early music groups do — witness the Madison Bach Musicians.  For EMO, there is a particular reliance on personnel from around our state, and from Madison in particular.

Thus, two admired Madison early music players are involved: Baroque violinist Edith Hines (below top) as leader of the strings, and Teresa Koenig (below bottom), a specialist in Baroque wind instruments.

Edith Hines BW

Theresa Koenig

In addition, this program offers two sopranos for the vocal pieces, each with a Madison connection. Sarah Richardson is currently a doctoral candidate at the UW School of Music, studying with University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music professor and baritone Paul Rowe.  And Chelsea Morris Shephard, who has sung with the Madison Bach Musicians, will be remembered as a finalist in in last summer’s Handel Aria Competition for the Madison Early Musical Festival.

Sarah Richardson

CHELSEA Shephard

Such a rich menu of Handel is bound to appeal to lovers of this fabulous composer’s wonderful music, and attract those who should be such lovers.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Classical music: During the Great Heat Wave of 2012, what is good music to cool you off? What music do you like to Beat the Heat?

July 7, 2012
16 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It has been quite the unbearable week in quite the unbearable and even deadly month.

The hot weather has been relentless, with some of the nation being decimated by wild fires and much of the nation suffering under a Great Heat Wave that has broken thousands of record highs and set new ones.

So, it there any music we can use to Beat the Heat?

Well, there are always the old standards: one famous one is Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” set of four string concertos with its “Autumn” and especially “Winter” movements. Handel‘s “Water Music” is another Baroque standard, and Telemann’s “Water Music” is also effective if less well known.

Then there is more grandiose music that announces its intention with its title. Richard Strauss wrote the “Alpine” Symphony while Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the Symphony Antarctica.

Emotionally, one of the chilliest works ever composed is Schubert’s song cycle, “Winterreise” (Winter Journey). Chopin’s dramatic and blustery “Winter Winter” Etude, Op. 25, No. 11, is another such work. 

For The Ear, two of the most cooling works are piano pieces, perhaps because the percussive timbre or nature of the piano sound has a certain coolness to it.

One is by Maurice Ravel, his “Jeux d’eaux” (Fountains), which feels refreshing,  like a dip in a cool pool or a run under a sprinkler (as can Liszt’s similar work “Fountains at the Villa d’Este).

Take a listen at how those cascading notes, played by Martha Argerich, wash over you and cool you off:

But the chilliest scene of winter, as the American writer Ann Beattie might put it, comes from that revolutionary modernist Claude Debussy (below), the same cool and watery composer who also wrote “Snowflakes Are Dancing”; the oceanic “Sunken Cathedral”; and the bracing wavy symphonic tone poem “La Mer” (The Sea).

The coldest music Debussy wrote is “Tracks in the Snow” from his first book of Preludes. It in its minimalism, especially as played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, it portrays a certain kind of haunting and immobilizing austerity that seem downright frigid:

I’m sure there are many other works of classical music that serve the purpose of making listeners feel cool or even cold.

Let The Ear hear some of your favorites and your suggestions, with links to a YouTube video if possible.


    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,197 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,067,956 hits
%d bloggers like this: