The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Middleton Community Orchestra impresses in a concert of “non-holiday” music for the holidays. Plus, what music is best to greet the Winter Solstice today?

December 21, 2018
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

ALERT: Today we turn a  corner when the Winter Solstice arrives at 4:23 p.m. Days will start getting longer. What music would you celebrate it with? Antonio Vivaldi’s “Winter” section of “The Four Seasons”? Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” or “Winter Journey”? Let The Ear know in the COMMENT section with a YouTube link if possible. Here comes the sun!

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 once a month on Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. For years, he served on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison. He also took the performance photos.

By John W. Barker

On Wednesday night at the Middleton Performing Arts Center, the mostly amateur Middleton Community Orchestra (below) proudly presented an alternative Christmas program of music, none of which had any connection whatsoever with that otherwise inescapable holiday.

It was a program of great variety, full of novelties.

It began soberly with Gustav Mahler’s early song cycle, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). This venture into German orchestral song (with a folk song background) provided symphonic inspiration for his First Symphony, the so-called “Titan,” so it unites many strains in the composer’s work.

Baritone Paul Rowe (below), of the UW-Madison’s music faculty, sang these songs. Rowe has a strong feeling for German, and he used clear diction to capture the dramatic meanings of the four song texts.

A contrast then, and a particular novelty, was the appearance of Matthew Coley (below), of the percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion, playing the cimbalom, the intensely Hungarian version of the hammered dulcimer. 

He was joined by the orchestra for a fancy arrangement of the Hungarian dance, the popular Czardas by Vittorio Monti. (You can hear Matthew Coley play the same piece on the cimbalom in the YouTube video at the bottom.) He followed this with an encore, a hand-me-down arrangement of a movement from one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo cello suites.

More contrast came with the mini-ballet score by Darius Milhaud Le Boeuf sur le toit (The Ox on the Roof) of 1919. This was one of the French composer’s trailblazing introductions of American jazz styles into European music.

It really works best with a small orchestra, so Middleton’s was a bit overblown for the assignment. But the elaborate solo role for violin was taken by Naha Greenholtz — concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and wife of the evening’s guest conductor, Kyle Knox, who is the music director of Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Associate Conductor of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. There are some fiendish passages in the solo work, and Greenholtz brought them off with unfailing flair.

The final part of the program was devoted to the orchestral suite that Zoltan Kodaly derived from his Singspiel of 1926, Hary Janos, in which a comic Hungarian soldier upstages even Napoleon.

This is a satiric and highly colorful assemblage that offers wonderful opportunities for all of the instruments and sections to show off. And Coley was back with his cimbalom for Hungarian spice. The players clearly were having a great frolic, and conductor Knox drew the best out of them in a bravura performance.

Ah yes! Christmas without “Christmas” music. A wonderful idea to refresh the ears in December!


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Classical music: Today is Small Business Saturday. Here are classical music gift suggestions from the critics for The New York Times. Plus, a FREE Christmas Carol Sing is in Overture Hall tonight at 7.

November 28, 2015
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ALERT: Want to relax after eating and shopping? Tonight at 7 p.m. in Overture Hall of the Overture Center, there is a FREE and PUBLIC one-hour Community Christmas Carol Sing, hosted by the Madison Symphony Orchestra. All ages are welcome. Accompaniment will be on the Overture Concert Organ, played by MSO Principal Organist Samuel Hutchison.

By Jacob Stockinger

Thanksgiving is done, and now we look forward to the holiday season of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and even winter solstice festivals.

To further and foster your shopping, today is now known as Small Business Saturday, the day following Black Friday. It is supposed to encourage consumers to shop and eat at locally owned businesses.

Unfortunately, the availability of classical music recordings has shrunk so much over the past decade, it can be hard to shop locally for classical music gifts except tickets — which make a great gift.  But you can still try. Any tips you want to leave in the COMMENT section and share with others?

And a gift guide might be appreciated or even helpful, whether you shop online or locally.

Today, The Ear offers installment Number 2 from The New York Times.

New York Times classical music gift guide 2015

Yesterday’s post featured gift ideas from the BBC Music Magazine and the Telegraph newspaper.

Here is a link to that post:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/classical-music-here-are-the-best-classical-music-cds-of-2015-according-to-the-bbc-music-magazine-and-the-telegraph-newspaper/

Today is the annual gift guide put together by the various critics for The New York Times. Prices have a wide range, and there are some inexpensive gifts. But this year there seems to be an emphasis on more expensive sets of books and recordings.

Could it possibly be that because the critics get free review copies, they feel compelled to push them or hawk them at the holiday time?

Maybe. But in the spirit of the season let’s pretend that the suggestions – many of which are very good and The Ear agrees with – are based on merit alone.

Here is a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/multimedia/2015-holiday-gift-guide-musicmovies.html

All the gift guides in various areas or field are on the same website.

So first you have to scroll down to Classical Music.

Then you have to click on the name or title to get more information about the item including the price.

It seems kind of inconvenient and a little bit sleazy to The Ear, what with all that navigating.

Which web designer came up with this way? The Ear much preferred the guides of past years, where you got the full text without so much work and so much clicking. All you had to do was scroll.

Try and see what you think, whether you disagree or agree with The Ear.

Good luck.

Good shopping.

And, if you are the recipient rather than the giver, good listening and reading.

 


Classical music: What music is good to greet the Winter Solstice today?

December 21, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has been waiting for this.

And now it is at hand,

Today we are about to turn the corner.

Today is the Winter Solstice (below), the first day of winter, when the days finally start getting longer and the nights shorter.

winter solstice image

Officially, the Winter Solstice arrives at 5:03 p.m. CST in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Ear has even heard about quite a few parties being held to mark the event.

And parties need music.

Here are a few selections of classical music to get you in the right frame of mind to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

The composers include well-known works and composers like the Baroque violin concertos “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi; the Classical-era oratorios “The Creation” and “The Seasons” by Franz Joseph Haydn; a section of a Romantic symphony by Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, and a piano miniature by the Impressionist Claude Debussy.

But there are unknown ones too.

http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20131217/Blogs/312179869

But perhaps you have other favorites.

If so, please tell The Ear all about the music you listen to when you want to mark the Winter Solstice.

And here, in another version by Roger Norrington with the Handel and Haydn Society, is the “Winter” part of Haydn’s oratorio “The Four Seasons” that looks like it has been blocked from the link because of copyright infringement.


Classical music: The Madison Choral Project celebrates the holidays and the Winter Solstice on this Saturday with reading, carols and music.

December 17, 2014
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

The Madison Choral Project’s founder and music director Albert Pinsonneault (below) writes:

Albert Pinsonneault 2

Hi Jake!

Here is information about the Madison Choral Project’s upcoming concert: “O Day Full of Grace” on this coming Saturday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Avenue, Madison.

The concert will feature the 22-voice professional chamber choir the Madison Choral Project (below to), and readings from Noah Ovshinsky (below bottom) of Wisconsin Public Radio, as well as audience sing-along carols.

Madison Choral Project color

Noah Ovshinsky

Tickets are $20 online or $25 at the door.

Here is a link for tickets: http://themcp.org/tickets/

Here is a link to the Madison Choral Project general website: http://themcp.org

And here is the complete program:

– Reading from Ovid’s “Amores”

– Carol with Audience: “Once in Royal David’s City

SET 1: THERE WILL BE LIGHT

– “Benedictus Dominus” by Ludwig Daser (1525-1589)

– “Die mit Tränen Säen” by Johann Schein (1586-1630)

– “Helig” from “Die Deutche Liturgie” by Felix Mendelssohn (below, 1809-1847)

mendelssohn_300

SET 2: UNDERSTANDING THROUGH LOVE

– “Mary Speaks” by Nathaniel Gawthrop (b. 1949)

– Reading from Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”

– “The Gallant Weaver” by James MacMillan (b. 1959)

– “Entreat Me Not To Leave You” by Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

– Carol with Audience: “Silent Night”

INTERMISSION

SET 3: HAVE JOY NOW

– Reading from Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”

– “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” arr. Dale Grotenhuis (1932-2012)

– “Away in a Manger,” arr. Bradley Ellingboe (b. 1958)

– “Ding Dong! Merrily on High,” arr. Carolyn Jennings (b. 1929)

SET 4: AT THE END OF DAYS, GRACE

– Reading, e.e.cummings’ “i thank you”

– “O Day Full of Grace” by F. Melius Christiansen (1871-1945)

– Reading Ranier Maria Rilke‘s “Sunset”

– Carol with Audience: “Day Is Done”

– “The Long Day Closes” by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), which can be heard in a YouTube video at the bottom.

ENCORE

– “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” by Moses Hogan (1957-2003)

 


Classical music: This holiday season, why not give the gift of live music plus your time and companionship? Here are some suggestions from The Ear and from guest blogger Janet Murphy. Plus, what piece best expresses today’s Winter Solstice?

December 21, 2013
1 Comment

READER SURVEY: Today is the Winter Solstice at 11:11 p.m. CST. What piece of music most expresses or embodies that welcome event when the days finally start getting longer and the nights shorter — even if the warm and sunny weather is still far in the future? Let The Ear know with a COMMENT.

winter solstice image

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, it’s getting down to the wire when it comes to holiday shopping.

As I do every year, I suggest that you give the gift of live music. There wis nothing like it — nothing even comes close.

Of course, you can also couple it to new CD recording or a DVD video with the same performer or work, or even a new book about Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven or someone else.

Bach Music in the Castle of Heaven

But the other important thing to give is yourself: Some time and some companion ship. This is especially true for children and young people who need some guidance, and for older people who may have accessibility issues and need your help if they are to get out to an event.

It isn’t hard to put together. Let the recipient’s taste in music be your guide. You can go on-line and explore the possibilities. You can go to bigger and more expensive events by the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, which has a holiday ticket sale going on through Christmas Eve), the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater and the Overture Center.

John DeMain and MSO from the stage Greg Anderson

Or you could seek out free or more inexpensive events, especially chamber music but also orchestra concerts, choral concerts and opera, at the University of Wisconsin School of Music (below is the Pro Arte String Quartet, which will present the FREE world premiere of a work it commissioned from Belgian composer Benoit Mernier on March 1-2) or Edgewood College or any number of small groups.

ProArte 2010 3

Just get a holiday cards and write out a heart-felt message with the event, date and time and your offer to go with the recipient, maybe even share a meal or snack before or after the event. And if it is weeks or months out, that just gives people something to look forward to once the holidays are over.

In that same spirit, guest blogger and UW Choral Union singer Janet Murphy (below) offered this specific gift idea:

Janet Murphy

Murphy writes: Arboretum Cohousing (www.ArboretumCohousing.org) aka. Arbco, is presenting an evening with Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss of Madison (below) on Saturday, January 18.  Struggling to come up with a gift for the Impossible to Buy For?  Well, you could end the pain right now by buying the ITBF a ticket to see Kitt at:

www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/468942

But why?

Here are four good reasons to give the gift of concert tickets:

You want to go to the concert, so you cleverly buy a ticket for someone else to go with you.

Tickets produce nothing to clutter our lives, take back, assemble, be redeemed, or be discarded.  No batteries required.

You support the local arts with your holiday spending.  Musicians and venues need us today so they will exist tomorrow.

You and your guest get to enjoy those warm feelings of giving and receiving twice – first in the bleak mid-winter, and then again at concert time.

kitt reuter foss copy

And here are four good reasons you might choose to give the gift of Kitt Reuter-Foss tickets:

Madison doesn’t have enough opportunities to see one of our premier talents.

November’s Arboretum Cohousing concert with keyboardist Trevor Stephenson (below) was a ridiculous amount of fun.  If you missed it, you can make up for that mistake now.

Arbco Trevor answers questions

Intimate venues mean a value-added experience: Visit with fellow concert-goers, see the performers up close and personal, hear gloriously unamplified music, and expect to be surprised (something magical always happens).

There are sweets and savories galore (below) – and you can enjoy them while you listen.

Arbco Refreshments

In addition, you will be doing a good deed. All proceeds from the concert go to restore Arco’s vintage Mason and Hamlin grand piano (below), so the gift of music will also enable Arbco to present more music in the future.

With so many performances in Madison to make your ITBF happy, what are you waiting for?  Go for it.

Mason and Hamlin harp and strings


Classical music: The Madison Choral Project celebrates the holidays and the winter solstice with “A Light in the Darkness” concert this Saturday night.

December 19, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

The recently formed Madison Choral Project (below) will perform “A Light in the Darkness” concert this Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the First Congregational Church, 1609 University Ave., that features traditional holiday music combined with secular pieces focusing on the theme of light and darkness to mark the winter solstice — which falls on the same Saturday.

Madison Choral Project color

Perhaps Madison’s newest choral ensemble, the Madison Choral Project, is a fully professional 17-voice ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Albert Pinsonneault (below), who teaches and conducts at Edgewood College. You can hear the new choral group performing a work from Felix Mendelssohn‘s oratorio “Elijah” live in a concert this past May in a YouTube video at the bottom.

Albert Pinsonneault 2

MCP is a professional chamber choir dedicated to bringing international-caliber choral performances to southern Wisconsin.

Along with spoken texts, narrated by Noah Ovshinsky (below), assistant news director of Wisconsin Public Radio, the evening weaves together an eclectic range of old and new designed to be both balm and hope, joy and inspiration, on the darkest day of the year, December 21, the Winter Solstice.

Noah Ovshinsky

A world premiere performance (of a work by David Evan Thomas, below (will be featured among favorite composers such as Herbert Howells, Henry Purcell, Charles Ives, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Moses Hogan. (Update: The world premiere of a new work by Madison composer Jerry Hui has been taken off the program.)

Tickets are $20 general admission and $5 for students (with valid ID), and can be purchased online at www.themcp.org or at the concert.

David Evan Thomas

The program, arranged into four groups, includes:

Long, Long Ago (Herbert Howells)
; Silent Night (arr. Malcolm Sargent); 
Angels We Have Heard on High (arr. Matthew Culloton)
; Hear My Prayer (Henry Purcell); 
The Celestial Country: Double Chorus A Cappella (Charles Ives)

Prepare the Way (arr. Margareta Jalkeus); A Christmas Carol (Charles Ives)
; In Dulci Jublio (arr. Matthew Culloton); Jingle Bells (arr. David Moore)

“From Light to Light: Earth” by J. Aaron McDermid; and the 
WORLD PREMIERE of “Confirmatum est” by David Evan Thomas.

Go and Tell John (arr. Carolyn Jennings)
; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Op. 31, No. 12 “We Hymn Thee” (Sergei Rachmaninoff); This Little Light of Mine (arr. Moses Hogan)
; Glory, Glory, Glory to the Newborn King (arr. Moses Hogan)

 


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