The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Did Beethoven borrow from Beethoven? And how do you think the Madison Symphony Orchestra did with Beethoven’s Ninth? Plus, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) finish up their spring concerts this weekend.

May 15, 2015
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REMINDER: This weekend the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) finish up their spring concerts at Mills Hall and Overture Hall, where the music students will perform a Side-by-Side concert with the professional players of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Here is a link to more information and details:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/classical-music-education-wyso-spring-concerts-start-i-this-saturday-and-run-again-on-may-16-17/

WYSO Youth  Orchestra

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, you have to hand it to music director and conductor John DeMain as well as the orchestra players, the chorus members and the guest soloists: The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) sure knows how to finish up a season with a bang.

A very Big Bang.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Last weekend in Overture Hall, they closed the current season with a stratospheric performance of Beethoven’s Ninth.

Sure, all parties — especially concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below) — also did a terrific job in performing Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto-like “Serenade” (after Plato’s “Symposium”), which preceded the iconic Beethoven symphony.

Naha Greenholtz [playing

But it was the Beethoven symphony that grabbed everyone’s ears and didn’t let go, earning a well-deserved and instant standing ovation.

This was Beethoven at his exciting best.

All the musicians played tightly and DeMain (below, in a photo by Prasad) managed to make the old radical piece sound radically new, with a driving rawness and roughness (lots of loud and highly accented percussion) coupled with flawless precision and great balancing of the winds and strings as well as the brass.

This interpretation was both dramatic and transparent in a way that both thrilled you and helped you to understand the music and its structure.

John DeMain full face by Prasad

A couple of years ago I remarked that DeMain – who came here from the Houston Grand Opera as primarily an opera conductor – had developed into a great Brahms interpreter.

Now I can say the same thing about his having become an outstanding Beethovenian.

But I did have one question:

Am I the only one who hears the slow movement of Beethoven’s early “Pathétique” piano sonata in the opening of the slow movement of his Ninth Symphony?

Listen for yourself and decide by using these YouTube videos:

First, here is the Pathétique’s slow movement, played by Daniel Barenboim, that has been used as a theme song by many musicians including Karl Haas:

And now here is the slow movement, also with Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra made up of Israeli and Palestinian students, of the Ninth Symphony:

Maybe I am hearing things that aren’t there.

Or maybe musicologists have long established the similarity between the early and the late work as fact -– though I cannot recall having seen it mentioned.

What do you think of the comparison?

Can you think of other pieces that sound as if they were twins separated at birth? Leave names – and maybe a YouTube link – in the COMMENTS section.

And what did you think of the final concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: A FREE “fusion” concert of Arab and Jewish art music will take place on this coming Saturday night on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Plus, the students of UW tenor James Doing will perform a FREE recital of songs and arias this Thursday night at 7.

April 2, 2014
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ALERT: Tomorrow, Thursday night at 7 p.m., University of Wisconsin-Madison tenor James Doing will present another of his FREE  studio recitals. It will feature 17 of his students (below, with Doing on the back row on the far right) — but this time NOT Doing himself — in various works, performed with piano accompaniment. The composers to be heard include George Frideric Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gabriel Faure, Maurice Ravel, Henri Duparc, Leo Delibes, Manuel DeFalla, Giaocchino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi, Leonard Bernstein and William Bolcom. The Ear has found such recitals in the past extremely informative and extremely enjoyable, a model of teacher-student cooperation based on a kind of master-apprentice model. Here is my review of a previous such recital:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/classical-music-review-uw-tenor-james-doing-successfully-reinvents-the-art-song-recital/ 

2014 James Doing Studio USE

By Jacob Stockinger

It seems to The Ear that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has lately been on the back burner for the most part, though it is heating up again as the Palestinians threaten again to go to the United Nations for official statehood recognition .

israel palestine conflict

Still, that turmoil seems pretty much buried under the turmoil in Ukraine involving Russia’s annexation of Crimea; under the three week-long story of the missing Malaysian jet on its flight to Beijing; and under the tragedy of the massive and deadly mudslide near Seattle.

Add in the civil war in Syria, the student protests in Venezuela, concerns over Iran and nuclear proliferation and some African politics, and you can quickly understand why the Israelis and the Palestinians are less visible these days.

But although their disagreement may be less visible in the headlines, the Jewish-Arab problem is still there and is still urgent in its need to be solved.

After all, President Obama just returned from a trip to the Mideast where he met with to Saudi officials. And his administration continues to look for peace even as troubles from Palestinian rocket attacks to new Israeli construction on the West Bank, still plague the peace process.

So the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and the effort to secure a two-state solution, continues — or so one can hope.

With that background, it might seem that University of Wisconsin-Madison cellist Uri Vardi, who is an Israeli by birth and training, is following the current trend towards using art –- specifically music – to promote cross-cultural understanding and ultimately peace.

Uri Vardi with cello COLOR

If that goal seems far-fetched or distant, well you might recall that world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that he founded with the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said to foster peace by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian young musicians for concerts and recordings.

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, Carnegie Hall

And the universally acclaimed early music master Jordi Savall (below top) and his ensemble Hesperion XXI have just released to rave reviews their second CD volume of music (below bottom) that blends Arabic and European cultures.

savall

Jordi Savall Orient-Occident 2 CD cover

But Uri Vardi is anything but late to the game. For almost two decades he has been promoting such international understanding and peace efforts through art for a very long time through the Fusions Continuum Project.

This Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Vardi will play the cello and his friend and colleague Taiseer Elias will play the oud (below) -– a fretless, lute-like instrument that is the ancient ancestor of the guitar and of the entire string family including the violin, viola, cello and double bass.

oud

Taiseer Elias

They will be joined by pianist-composer Menachem Wiesenberg (below), who is seen performing one of his own compositions with our master Taseer Elias in a YouTube video at the bottom.

menachem wiesenberg with music

If you miss that performance, the concert will be repeated the next day, this Sunday, on “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” (below), which will be broadcast LIVE statewide on Wisconsin Public Radio from 12:30 to 2 p.m., and on Sunday night at a FREE concert in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. at the Rubinstein Pavilion, 1400 North Prospect Avenue. Then the trio will embark of a tour of the U.S.

SALsetupgallery

In 2008, Vardi and Elias – an acclaimed teacher and performer in Israeli — gave the world premiere in Madison in a specially composed Double Concerto for Oud and Cello by the American composer Joel Hoffman (below). It was premiered by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under conductor John DeMain, and it is the kind of cultural crossover project that has found similar success with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project.

Joel Hoffman

Here are three links to stories about Uri Vardi and the upcoming fusion concert of Arab and Israeli music:

The first is to the shorter story on the outstanding blog “Fanfare” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music:

http://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/acappella_taylorpiano_beatriceopera/

The second longer and more detailed story is a press release from the newsletter of the UW-Madison Department of Jewish Studies:

http://jewishstudies.wisc.edu/newsletter/winter2014/vardi/

And the third link will give you the full program:

http://jewishstudies.wisc.edu/arts/fusions/program/

What do you think of a project like this?

Can it be practical in the pursuit of peace and understanding?

Or does it remain pretty much irrelevant entertainment?

Leave your opinion in the COMMENT section of this blog.

The Ear wants to hear.

 

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