The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: It’s summer. Which composers and musical works have been inspired by insects?

July 14, 2018
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s summer.

The Ear likes to watch the fireflies or lightning bugs and hear the crickets that come with the season.

But he is much less fond of ants and spiders, of bees and wasps, and especially of mosquitoes, which seem particularly plentiful and aggressive after the very wet spring Wisconsin experienced.

But it turns out that, over many centuries, insects have inspired a lot of composers to write music that mimicked them and their noises and movements.

Professional violist and music educator Miles Hoffman (below) recently discussed insect music on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Here is a link:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/09/627190250/classical-composers-have-been-inspired-for-centuries-by-insects

You can read the printed transcript, but the real fun and learning come if you listen to the audio clip that includes musical excerpts.

Some prominent ones were overlooked or not mentioned, including Romantic composer Robert Schumann’s “Papillons” (Butterflies) for solo piano, which you can hear played by Wilhelm Kempff in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Can you think of other composers and pieces that focus on insects?

Leave the name or title, plus a YouTube link to a performance if possible, in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: This coming weekend, pianist John O’Conor returns to play a Beethoven concerto with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra on Friday night and then a solo recital at Farley’s on Saturday night

May 7, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

The acclaimed Irish pianist and teacher John O’Conor (below) returns to Madison this weekend for two concerts that will close out the season for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra on Friday night and the Salon Piano Series at Farley’s House of Piano on Saturday night.

For more about John O’Conor‘s impressive background as a performer, a recording artist, a pedagogue and a juror for international piano competitions, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_O%27Conor

WISCONSIN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

The first event with O’Conor is an all-Beethoven concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) under the baton of music director Andrew Sewell.

The WCO concert is on Friday night, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, 201 State St.

The program features the Overture to “King Stephen”; the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, with O’Conor as soloist; and the popular, dramatic and iconoclastic or even revolutionary Symphony No. 5 in C minor.

Such repertoire from the Classical period is one of O’Conor’s strong suits as well as one of the WCO’s. When the two last performed together in 2016 O’Conor and the WCO played works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Irish early Romantic John Field.

Plus, O’Conor studied Beethoven with the legendary Beethoven interpreter Wilhelm Kempff.

So this concert promises to be a dynamic experience with perfectly paired players.

Tickets are $15-$80 with student tickets available for $10.

For more information about O’Conor and about how to obtain tickets, go to:

https://wisconsinchamberorchestra.org/performances/masterworks-v-3/

SALON PIANO SERIES

Then on Saturday night, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Farley’s House of Pianos, located at 6522 Seybold Road, on Madison’s far west side near the West Towne Mall, pianist O’Conor will give a solo recital to close out the Salon Piano Series.

The program includes the Sonata in B minor by Franz Joseph Haydn; Four Impromptus, Op. 90 or D. 899, by Franz Schubert; Nocturnes Nos. 5, 6, and 18 by the Irish composer John Field (below), whose neglected works are a specialty of O’Conor; and the iconic “Moonlight” Sonata in C-sharp minor by Ludwig van Beethoven. (You can hear O’Conor perform the exciting and virtuosic last moment of the “Moonlight” in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

A reception follows the concert.

Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door, with student tickets available for $10.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call (608) 271-2626 or go to these two web sites:

http://salonpianoseries.org/concerts.html

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2995003


Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS – Chicago pianist Jorge Federico Osorio plays a piano transcription of J.S. Bach by Walter Rummel, whose transcriptions deserve a much wider hearing.

August 2, 2013
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

There is no point being a purist about transcriptions, especially in the Baroque era and Romantic eras.

All the great Baroque composers  — Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, George Frideric Handel and especially Johann Sebastian Bach (below) to name a few — borrowed from themselves and from other composers, and always felt free to rearrange the original for a different instrument or a special occasion.

Bach1

Like many piano fans, I know and have heard or even played a lot of Bach transcriptions for the modern piano, from Ferrucio Busoni’s wonderful version of chorale preludes to Alexander Siloti’s and Egon Petri’s version to Wilhelm Kempff and of course the famous version of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Dame Myra Hess (below).

Portrait of Myra Hess, 1950s

But I had never heard of transcriptions of Walter Rummel -– even though the Hyperion label offer a series of Bach piano transcriptions with more than 10 volumes, including a 2-CD set of Walter Rummel’s transcriptions of movements from Bach’s cantatas.

Rummel (below, in 1944) lived from 1887 to 1953 and studied with the virtuosic performer and arranger Leopold Godowsky. Though of German background, he spent most of his career in France and was acclaimed for his playing especially of Debussy, and for his arrangements and transcriptions.

Walter Rummel in 1944

Anyway, I like what I heard and was quite taken with it, and hope you will be too. As with so many of these transcriptions, I suspect it sounds a lot easier to play than it really is.

Anyway, here it is, played by the Chicago pianist Jorge Federico Osorio (below) in a live performance captured by and posted in a YouTube video.

Jorge Federico Osorio

I cannot find a recording of this particular work – although Osorio has recorded three volumes of Mexican music, including the Piano Concerto by Carlos Chavez, for the outstanding  non-profit Cedille Records in Chicago — by Osorio on CD. But the acclaimed pianist Jonathan Plowright has recorded it for the Hyperion series.

What is your favorite piano transcription of Bach? And who plays it?

The Ear wants to hear.

In the mean time, here is the lovely and calmingly thoughtful performance by Jorge Federico Osorio. Tell me if it doesn’t want to make you hear more:


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