The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Two noteworthy baroque concerts by Just Bach and the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble are on tap this Wednesday afternoon and Saturday night

October 15, 2019
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By Jacob Stockinger

Fans of Baroque music have two noteworthy events this week to look forward to.

Both concerts feature period instruments and historically informed performance practices.

WEDNESDAY AT NOON

This coming Wednesday, Oct. 16, from noon to 12:30  p.m. at Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue, the second FREE Just Bach concert of the semester will take place.

The concerts by Just Bach (below, in a photo by John W. Barker) are now a regular feature of the Music at Midday at Luther Memorial Church.

Organist Mark Brampton Smith opens the program with a brief Fantasia on the melody of “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (Christ Lay in Death’s Bonds). That tune will reappear at the very end of the program, in the final chorale of Cantata 158.

The next piece on the program was also written for solo organ, but will be heard in an arrangement for violin, viola, cello and organ. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote six organ trio sonatas, apparently for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann.

The C Minor Sonata, the second in the set, is full of fiery drama in the outer movements, framing a dreamy, peaceful Largo.

UW-Madison baritone Paul Rowe will lead the chorale sing-along, a beloved audience-participation feature of these programs.

The program closes with Cantata 158, “Der Friede sei mit dir” (Peace Be with You), with solo bass-baritone Jake Elfner. Elisheva Pront provides the luminous “cantus firmus” (an existing melody used in a polyphonic composition) in the second movement, which also features a beautiful violin solo played by Kangwon Kim. The Cantata ends with a chorale on the tune of “Christ lag in Todesbanden.”

You may bring your lunch and beverage.

The concert is FREE and open to the public, with a goodwill offering collected.

Other Just Bach concerts this fall, all Wednesdays at Noon, are: Nov. 20 and Dec. 18.

Performers this week are: Jake Elfner, bass-baritone; Elisheva Pront, soprano; Kangwon Kim, violin; Leanne League, violin; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; James Waldo, cello; and Mark Brampton Smith, organ.

For more information, go to: https://justbach.org or https://www.facebook.com/JustBachSeries/

SATURDAY NIGHT

This Saturday night, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1833 Regent Street in Madison, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble (below) will perform a concert of varied chamber music.

Performers include: Mimmi Fulmer, UW-Madison soprano; Nathan Giblierano, baroque violin; Eric Miller, viola da gamba and baroque cello; Chelsie Propst, soprano; Charlie Rasmussen, viola da gamba and baroque cello; Consuelo Sañudo, mezzo-soprano; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.

Tickets are at the door only: $20 for the public, $10 students. After the concert, a reception will be held at 2422 Kendall Ave, second floor.

The program is:

Henry Purcell: Three Fantasias

Giacomo Carissimi: “Scrivete, occhi dolente” (Write, Sore Eyes)

George Frideric Handel: Violin Sonata, HWV 372 (heard in an animated graphic depiction the YouTube video at the bottom)

Claudio Monteverdi: “Baci soave e cari” (Soft and Dear Kisses)

INTERMISSION

Luzzasco Luzzaschi: “O dolcezze amarissime” (O Bitter Sweetness)

Martin Berteau: Trio for violoncellos

Giulio Caccini: Excerpts from “La liberazione di Ruggiero” (The Liberation of Ruggiero)

For more information, go to: www.wisconsinbaroque.org


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Classical music: Madison Opera’s “Tales of Hoffmann” proved a musical and theatrical delight from beginning to end. Plus, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble performs Saturday night

April 22, 2016
2 Comments

ALERT: This Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Gates of Heaven Synagogue, 300 East Gorham Street in James Madison Park, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a concert of music by Claudio Monteverdi, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Francois Couperin and others. Tickets at the door are $20 for the public, $10 for students. A free reception with the musicians follows at 2422 Kendall Avenue, second floor. For more information about the performers and the program, visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Ear’s good friend and knowledgeable classical music fan Larry Wells offered the following review of last weekend’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” by the Madison Opera. Production photos are by James Gill for the Madison Opera.

By Larry Wells

I had been looking forward to Madison Opera’s production of “The Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach (below) ever since it was announced.

Jacques Offenbach seated

The opera is a particular favorite of mine, and I’ve seen a number of productions in larger houses, most recently in Tokyo and most memorably a production at the San Francisco Opera 30 years ago with Placido Domingo and James Morris.

I was interested to see how Madison Opera would approach this somewhat theatrically difficult work, and Sunday’s performance was a delight from beginning to end.

First, the singing.

The cast was consistently strong, and each singer could be mentioned in a positive vein. So, I single out three who particularly stood out.

The star of the show, for me, was coloratura soprano Jeni Hauser (below, center, in white) as Olympia, the doll. Her vocal pyrotechnics were sensational. She would be a wonderful Zerbinetta, and I would enjoy seeing her tackle Baby Doe. She is a very funny physical comic actress, and she was simply wonderful.

Madison Opera Hoffmann Doll Olympia Jeni Hauser CR James Gill

Morgan Smith (below) as Hoffmann’s four nemeses was excellent possessing a strong, deep bass-baritone. As a side note, he is the second singer I’ve seen and heard recently in Wisconsin who will be featured in Tucson Opera’s upcoming premiere of “Riders of the Purple Sage,” the other being Keith Phares who was in Florentine Opera’s recent production of Jake Heggie’s “Three Decembers.” It will be conducted by Keitaro Harada, who is a talent to watch.

Madison Opera Hoffmann Morgan Smith CR James Gill

The third standout was mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala (below) as Hoffmann’s Muse and attendant. She was outstanding vocally and fun to watch.

Madison Opera Hoffmann Adriana Zabala The Muse JAMES GILL

Hoffmann was sung by tenor Harold Meers (below right, in suit).  For an exhausting role, Meers toughed it out and, when singing full voice, was resonant and lyrical.

Madison Opera Hoffmann Harold Meers on right CR James Gill

The production was set in a well-stocked bar, and Hoffmann’s series of bad choices in love appeared fueled by alcohol.

Madison Opera Hoffmann set CR James Gill

The set, from the Virginia Opera, and costumes were dazzling, particularly in the Giulietta act, which in a departure from the productions I’ve seen, was the third act. I felt that the change of the order of the acts made a lot of sense dramatically.

And I loved the use by stage director Kristine McIntyre of the Roaring Twenties theme – flappers and Charlestons, along with gondolas, fog and a bit of German Expressionism. Total fun.

Madison Opera Hoffmann Gondola CR James Gill

Madison Opera Hoffmann Morgan Smith in cape CR James Gill

The Madison Symphony Orchestra was excellent throughout, and Maestro John DeMain is a treasure whom Madison is extremely fortunate to have. His sense of timing and dynamics is a wonder.

My favorite moment of the opera is the ensemble in the Giulietta scene “Hélas Mon Coeur,” and its performance Sunday nearly brought me to tears. In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear that music performed by Placido Domingo and the remarkable Agnes Baltsa.

So, bravo Madison Opera, for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the opera. I heard several people say that it was a long one — three hours — but for me the time flew.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since reviews are subjective, for purposes of comparison here is a link to John W. Barker’s rave review that just appeared in Isthmus:

http://isthmus.com/arts/stage/tales-of-hoffman-madison-opera/


Classical music: Happy Father’s Day! Music is filled with bad paternal role models and some good ones too. NPR discusses some bad fathers and praises good ones.

June 15, 2014
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day.

Classical music is filled with notable father figures and not all of them are fathers you would want to emulate.

Take the overbearing and ambitious Leopold Mozart (below top), who browbeat and exploited his young son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below bottom).

Leopold Mozart colo

mozart big

And what about Ludwig van Beethoven’s father (below top) who used to come home drunk and threatened his young prodigy son with a beating to force him to practice the piano?

One has to wonder: Did such paternal abuse actually yield positive results on these two towering figures of classical music? Or did Mozart and Beethoven succeed despite their fathers’ bullying. Does an unhappy childhood benefit the art even when it hurts the artist?

beethoven's father BW

On the other hand, maybe some good parenting by Johann Sebastian Bach -– the “old wig” as  his more “modern” Classical-era sons called him –- led to such good achievements by his composer sons Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

The same might be said for Baroque composers Alessandro Scarlatti (below top), best known for vocal music, and his son Domenico Scarlatti (below bottom), best known for his keyboard music.

Alessandron Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti muted

There are a lot of fictional fathers to mention on this holiday too.

Especially in opera.

Those fathers were discussed this past week on NPR by Miles Hoffman. Hoffman is himself both the father of two daughters and a professional musician, both a performer and a teacher. His interview, with musical samplings, covered works by Christoph Willibald Gluck, Mozart, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi and, as a positive counterpoint, Giacomo Puccini.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/13/321544999/just-in-time-for-father-s-day-bad-dads-in-opera

What real or fictional fathers -– good or bad — in classical music come to your mind?

The Ear would like to see the Father’s Day discussion of musical fathers expanded. So share good stories and bad stories about music and paternity — even if it is your own, because there are a lot of fathers who played a positive and encouraging role in music careers and musical stories.

The Ear wants to hear.

 

 

 


Classical music: Two concerts of New Music and Early Music by three local groups will both take place on the Saturday of this very busy weekend.

April 9, 2014
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This is a crazy busy weekend for classical music fans in Madison.

On Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closing out its season with pianist Stewart Goodyear playing his own Piano Concerto and Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Choral” Fantasy (plus the “Eroica” Symphony) on Friday night.

On Friday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is also the University of Iowa Center for New Music in a FREE concert.

Also on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Music Hall is the University Opera’s first of three performances of Hector Berlioz’ opera “Beatrice and Benedict.” It is the farewell production of director William Farlow, who is retiring this spring.

Then on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall is the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music’s Perlman Piano Trio, in a FREE concert of Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Antonin Dvorak. At 8 p.m. in Mills Hall is the UW-Madison Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” under conductor and director Beverly Taylor.

And on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is the First Unitarian Society of Madison performing Gabriel Faure’s lovely and calming Requiem. Admission is FREE and open to the public. And the on Sunday evening at 7 p.m., the UW Chorale Concert, under Bruce Gladstone, will perform a FREE concert in Mills Hall.

BUT…

But two concerts on Saturday by smaller local groups presenting old music and new music should also not be overlooked.

On Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Luther Memorial Church (below) at 1021 University Avenue, there is a FREE concert featuring new music by two local groups.

luther memorial church madison

“New Music Concert and Conversation” is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and features new works for the percussion group Clocks in Motion (below top) and the woodwind quintet Black Marigold (below bottom) by student composers across the country. Two of the four winning composers will be in attendance to speak about their work and answer questions from the audience.

clocks in motion in concert

Immediately following the performance, Clocks in Motion and Black Marigold members will speak about the challenges and rewards of performing new music.

The New Music Concert is part of the 18th annual conference of the Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC), which will take place at UW-Madison on April 11 and 12. MGMC is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and UW-Madison. MGMC encourages the presentation of original research and the composition of new music by graduate and advanced undergraduate students.

Details about the conference, including a full schedule and list of abstracts, can be found at the MGMC website. The conference includes papers by students from MGMC sister schools and institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Tamara Levitz, UCLA, will give a keynote lecture, “Riot at the Rite: Racial Exclusion and the Foundations of Musical Modernism.” Registration is FREE. Please send an email to kahiser@wisc.edu or mgmc2014conference@gmail.com if you plan to attend. (No registration is necessary for the New Music Concert).

The program includes:

Works for Clocks in Motion:

Kristina Warren, University of Virginia . . . Adelaide

Benjamin O’Brien, University of Florida . . . cadenceStudie

Works for Black Marigold (below):

Kenn McSperitt, University of Oklahoma . . . Eight  

Matthew R. Durrant, University of Utah . . . Quintet No. 2

Black Marigold

Then on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in the historic Gates of Heaven Synagogue (below), located at 300 East Gorham Street, in James Madison Park in downtown Madison, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble will perform a concert of vocal and instrumental early music on period instruments.

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble composite

The program includes:

1.    Wilhelm Friedemann Bach – Duet No. 2 for two flutes in E-flat major, F. 55

2.    Jean Baptiste Barrière – Cello Sonata No. 3, Book 2

3.    Georg Philipp Telemann – Suite 1 from “Six Paris Quartets”

4.    Johann Friedrich Fasch – Sonata for bassoon and continuo in C major

INTERMISSION

5.    Benoit Guillement – Sonata No. 1 for two traversi

6.    Johann Sebastian Bach – “Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erde” from cantata BWV 204 (heard at the bottom in a YouTube video featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman and soprano Kathleen Battle.)

7.    Carl Friedrich Abel – Sonata a viola da gamba solo et basso, WKO 160.

8.    Johann Christian Bach – Quartetto for traverso, violin, viola, and bass.

9.    Joseph Bodin de Boismortier – Concerto a cing parties, from Op.37.

Tickets are available only at the door. Admission is $15, $10 for students. Feel free to bring your own chair or pillow. For more information, call (608) 238-5126 or visit www.wisconsinbaroque.org.

Madison Baroque Ensemble

Members of the Wisconsin Barqoue Ensemble are: Theresa Koenig – baroque bassoon; Brett Lipshutz – traverse; Mary Perkinson – baroque violin; Consuelo Sañudo – mezzo-soprano; Monica Steger – traverse; Eric Miller – viola da gamba, baroque cello; Anton TenWolde – baroque cello; and Max Yount – harpsichord.

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Classical music: It’s Father’s Day. Who is tops as a musical father figure? The Ear says Johann Sebastian Bach is the Father of All Fathers – literally and figuratively — when it comes to classical music.

June 16, 2013
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Sunday, June 16, is Father’s Day in the U.S.

The holiday just isn’t as important as Mother’s Day, as lower retail sales figures show. But it is well worth noting and is widely celebrated.

So The Ear has to ask: What is the best music to play on Father’s Day, and who qualifies as the most important father figure in classical music?

Of course there are many father figures in opera, with Verdi’s Rigoletto protecting his daughter Gilda as a prime example. (Below is a photo from a production by the San Francisco Opera.)

Rigoletto SF Opera

Then there is Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s dour, tyrannical and demanding father who played such a pivotal and not always good role in his son’s career.

leopold mozart 1

Same for Beethoven’s father, a drunk who forced and abused his son Ludwig into practicing in the middle of the night.

The talented Alessandro Scarlatti (below top) gave us the prolific composer of wonderful keyboard sonatas Domenico Scarlatti (below bottom).

Alessandro Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti muted

But I think the honors for today’s holiday must go to the Father of All Fathers: Johann Sebastian Bach.

Not only did he father a lot of children– 20 with two wives. He also fathered some pretty important composers in their own right who followed him and at times even disavowed or repudiated their own father’s style as old-fashi0ned and outdated: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Johann Christoph Bach.

More importantly, Johann Sebastian (below) was — at least to my ears – the father of all Western classical music, if any single figure can be said to be that.

He was, in short, The Big Bang of classical music.

In that sense J.S. Bach was a father to all classical composers who followed him, whether they emulated him or rebelled against him.

Bach1

So here is a favorite work of mine by J.S. Bach to celebrate Father’s Day and the towering influence of Bach as a literal and figurative father:

If you can think of others father figures, please let The Ear know by leaving a remark in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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