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University Opera presents Verdi’s Falstaff, re-envisioned in Hollywood, 1930

As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff.  Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V, Falstaff is a wild, comic romp.  In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont.  Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money.  The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance.  But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters.  At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.


Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew.  This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.

Buy tickets here.

Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free.  Featured panelists include:

Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison

Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison

Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison

David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison

Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator

Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums.  The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly).  The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola).  Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.

The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver.  Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown.  The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.

Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings.  Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance.  The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.


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Third UW-Madison Brass Fest to feature renowned Stockholm Chamber Brass – Sept. 30/Oct. 1

BRASS, BRASS AND MORE BRASS – With No. 3, UW-Madison cements a tradition as a Brass Hub of the Midwest

On September 30 and October 1, 2016, the newly renamed Mead Witter School of Music will welcome the internationally acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass to campus for a third annual Brass Fest. The quintet’s tour of upstate New York, Michigan and Wisconsin will be their first-ever appearances in the United States.

The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.

The Stockholm Chamber Brass. Credit: Beatrice Winter.

Brass Fest III will also mark the first time that high school students will play an active role, attending master classes and performing on stage in a final Festival Brass Concert. Area high schools planning to attend include Middleton, Madison East, Madison West, Edgewood, and Memorial.

A number of major instrument makers and music companies, many located in Wisconsin, will also be on hand to display their wares. The School will also offer commemorative fund-raising t-shirts; scroll to bottom to learn more.

The events will include a concert with Stockholm Chamber Brass on Friday, September, 30, at 8 PM, and a second concert on October 1, also at 8 PM, with the Stockholm Chamber Brass, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, UW-Madison student performers and selected high school students. Both concerts will be held in Mills Hall in the Humanities Building.

Tickets: $20 for Friday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students); $15 for Saturday’s concert ($5.00 non-music students). Buy tickets here or at the door.

“We are expanding the festival because our mission is to perform and to teach,” says Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn and member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet. “We are motivated by the Wisconsin Idea, and we are making every effort to bring what we do to the population of the state. There are many students in the state who play brass instruments, and we want to include them in our educational mission. We also want to build on the successes of the past two years – many people enthusiastically attended the festival, and we want to make it better, more exciting, and more inclusive.”


Stockholm Chamber Brass, formed in 1985, consists of some of Scandinavia’s leading brass musicians. Its five members are all prize winners at major international solo competitions, including the ARD-Wettbewerb, CIEM Geneve, Markneukrichen and Toulon. Their international breakthrough came in 1988 when Stockholm Chamber Brass won 1st Prize at “Ville de Narbonne,” the most prestigious international competition for brass quintets.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has performed at Bad Kissingen Sommer, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Niedesächsische Musiktage, International de Musique Sion Valais, the Prague Spring Music Festival, the Budapest International Music Festival, Festival Internacional de Santander, the Soundstream Festival in Toronto, the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, the Umeå International Chamber Music Festival and the Stockholm New Music Festival. The ensemble has also performed at various brass festivals, including the Lieksa Brass Week, the International Trombone Festival in Helsinki, the Melbourne International Festival of Brass, Epsival Limoge and the Blekinge International Brass Academy.

Stockholm Chamber Brass has received glowing reviews for its CDs. A reviewer at American Record Guide writes, “I cannot imagine that a better brass quintet has ever existed.”

The ensemble’s repertoire consists mostly of original compositions and their own arrangements of older and contemporary music. Their interest in new music has resulted in over thirty compositions written specifically for the ensemble. Stockholm Chamber Brass has worked with a long list of leading composers, including Anders Hillborg, Sven-David Sandström, Pär Mårtensson, Britta Byström, Henrik Strindberg Piers Hellawell and Eino Tamberg. The ensemble has also collaborated with leading brass soloists Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg.

The current members of the Stockholm Chamber Brass are Urban Agnas, trumpet; Tom Poulson, trumpet; Jonas Bylund, trombone; Annamia Larsson, horn; and Sami Al Fakir, tuba.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is one of three faculty chamber ensembles in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music. Deeply committed to the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the group travels widely to offer its concerts and educational services to students and the public in all corners of the state.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet includes John Aley, trumpet; Matthew Onstad, trumpet; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Tom Curry, tuba; and Daniel Grabois, horn.

New this year: Commemorative Limited Edition T-Shirts, featuring our new Brass Fest III logo on the front and “Mead Witter School of Music” on the back. Prices from $11 to $14; all proceeds will support the School of Music. Send an email to t-shirt sales if you’d like to buy one.


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Kyle Knox: The Accidental Conductor

by Katherine Esposito

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.  – James Baldwin

It was the path he’d chosen, the direction he’d pursued, and Kyle Knox had finally tasted triumph in 2005, when he won, at age 23, the position of assistant principal clarinet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

It was a plum trophy in a sometimes punishing profession, realized only after a decade of studious toil in the practice room and on the orchestra stage.

Kyle Knox.

Kyle Knox. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

The young man who’d once won Most Valuable Player in Raritan, New Jersey as a 12-year-old Little Leaguer had bent his competitive edge toward music, and he’d won something akin to MVP there, too.  He studied with the great clarinetists – Ricardo Morales and Yehuda Gilad – went on to Juilliard and Tanglewood, and bested hundreds of rivals for the Milwaukee job.

Then, three years later, almost imperceptibly, one neuron at a time, it all started to unravel.

Today, Knox is best known in Madison as a promising young conductor, a graduate student at UW-Madison who will conduct UW’s upcoming opera, Transformationsand recently made his Madison Opera debut in its production of Little Women.  In 2014 and 2015, he conducted University Opera’s award-winning Albert Herring and two concerts with the Middleton Community Orchestra.  (He is also the husband of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, Naha Greenholtz.)

Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009.

Kyle Knox with his wife, Naha Greenholtz, hiking in Santa Fe, 2009. Family photograph.

He has impressed many observers, including Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain, who has watched Knox conduct several times, including Albert Herring, in which DeMain’s daughter Jennifer was cast. “[Kyle] worked uncompromisingly to achieve as close to perfection as possible,” says DeMain.

Until a few years ago, however, Kyle had never considered becoming a conductor leading an orchestra.  He was exhilarated to be playing in one.

His emergence as a conductor has almost been an accident, one that may now be resolving in his favor. But he faced many bleak days before he got there.


It was almost imperceptible at first, just odd coordination problems with his right hand. It was the spring of 2009. “I remember I was playing principal on Peter and the Wolf, and there’s this one passage with fast 16th notes and C-major arpeggios, and I remember having a hard time with this particular passage, repeating 16th notes, a very specific sequence of finger motions, and thinking, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ It was very strange” Kyle says.

For that concert, he wound up transposing it into a different key, and playing on an A clarinet instead of the usual one. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” he continues. “I just thought, oh, for some reason, my pointer finger is a little slow.”

“But maybe a month later, I was playing E-flat clarinet on Shostakovich’s 6th Symphony, and there’s a huge E-flat solo in the beginning of the second movement, very fast, and it had a very similar sequence of fingerings in the middle of the solo, and I practiced it obsessively, and I recorded it at home, and drove my wife crazy. But no matter how much I practiced, I never felt comfortable with the fingerwork.”

Classical orchestral musicians, at the highest levels, achieve mastery through one main thing: practice. It is not enough to be talented and musical; one must constantly revisit passage after passage to precisely engrave notes in the mind. Largely due to this kind of preparation, Kyle had always been assured and confident while performing. But now he began to feel unmoored.

The symphony schedule was intense: much music, many solos, multiple performances. In concert after concert, the strange sensations recurred.  At first, Kyle thought it was just a matter of working harder, to fix those notes even more firmly in his brain. “When something’s difficult, you want to feel secure on it. When I do these octaves, I know the distances, [so that] even if I miss the note,  I know it was a fluke. It has to feel right in your head,” he says.

But it wasn’t feeling right anymore. He began to lose confidence in his playing. A rigorous orchestra schedule gave him little respite.

His fellow musicians and the symphony patrons did not detect anything awry. But Kyle felt it was getting worse.

After six months he consulted neurological specialists at the Cleveland Clinic and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, who studied his movements as played his clarinet in their offices. They asked him questions and ruled out a few possibilities. Then they gave him a diagnosis: focal dystonia. He had never heard of it before.

His response was to practice even harder. He describes the chain of events that unfolded. “I started obsessively practicing, to make it feel right. In an effort to make it feel right, you start playing wrong, because you start compensating. You start doing strange things, which eventually start to show in your actual playing, and then you start hearing mistakes, which confirms your initial fear that there was something wrong. And then it becomes a feedback loop.”

For three years, Kyle continued to play with the MSO. He was managing, but the amount of music to learn and crush of performances — 150 per year — became overwhelming. “I just couldn’t rehab in a way that gave me confidence about playing in orchestra full time,” he says. “Wind players can’t hide.  Everything you do is a solo, so you feel exposed. It was a really rough time.”

He remembers his final concert, in October 2010, Mozart’s Requiem with conductor Edo de Waart, on which he played the basset horn.  “I hadn’t told anyone anything about what I was dealing with,” he says. “I remember thinking about the routines of orchestra life, how accustomed to the whole ritual I had become and reflecting on how some day soon I just wouldn’t be doing it anymore.  It was heavy.  After that Requiem performance I talked to the personnel manager and started my injury leave. That was it.”


Since the age 13, Kyle had known he wanted to work with music. He remembers hearing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on the radio, and watching a documentary about Leonard Bernstein and the music of Gustav Mahler. “I was mesmerized,” he says. “I was interested innately. I had to figure out a way to access it, and access came through the clarinet.”

Now, that access was cut short. He was adrift.  He immediately dove into conducting after cobbling together a volunteer orchestra in Milwaukee, trying out conducting studies at Northwestern University, and ultimately attending graduate school at UW-Madison.

At the School of Music, he studies with orchestra conductor James Smith, an “accidental conductor” himself who also once played clarinet. “Jim is enormously accomplished,” Kyle says. “I’ve been very lucky to play some of America’s greatest orchestras in my career. I’ve played for a lot a famous conductors, and I can legitimately say that Jim is as good as anyone I’ve ever played for.”

Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.

Kyle Knox with the UW Symphony Orchestra, 2013.

Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.

Scott Gendel (MM & DMA, School of Music) and Kyle Knox, preparing Little Women. Gendel is coach & accompanist for the show. Photograph by Steffanie Berg.

Madison got to know Kyle three years later, after several notable turns as a promising young conductor. Early on, he caught the eye of John DeMain, who knew about Kyle’s focal dystonia, and who saw real promise, and wanted to give him a chance.

Telling Kyle’s story on paper makes it all sound so simple. One career ended, another one started. He did it the only way he knows, urgently, intently, almost desperately, uncomfortable with any lack of movement in his life. The truth, however, is that he really had very little control over what was happening. And that was the main thing he needed to accept.

“Being a clarinetist was a thing that defined me,” he says. “It was part of my sense of self, and you can’t underestimate that.”  He knows better now. “The things that made me able to accomplish anything on the clarinet are intrinsic qualities. The clarinet doesn’t define me. I define myself.”

If he had to enter that valley once more, he’d hope to approach it differently. He’d take time to grieve, to try to discern underlying meaning, to try to figure out the nature of the problem. Rushing doesn’t help anyway, he says.

“Sometimes, in a effort to redefine yourself too quickly, you can slow your process down of ending up where you’re going to end up anyway,” he continues. “Maybe you’ve been pushing too hard, maybe you’re been working too hard. Your body is telling you things, and you need to use it as an opportunity to reflect.”

“You have to be sympathetic with yourself. I think that is hugely important. And to have as much an eye on the long term as possible-that life is long, that your career is long, that there are lots of things in the future that will happen that are potentially good. But you have to let them unfold.”

Ten years ago, he wouldn’t have listened to these words. It wasn’t who he was. But it is who he is now.

“It’s possible to have great aspirations, but also to be patient and to be sane. It is possible to be of both minds. And I think the most successful people are that way.”


Spring Performances with Kyle Knox, Conductor

University Opera, Transformations

March 11, 13, 15, 2016



Madison Savoyards, The Gondoliers

July & August, 2016



Middleton Players Theater, Sunday in the Park with George

June & July, 2016



Summer Music Clinic Honors Orchestra

June 26-July 1, 2016



Katherine Esposito is the publicist and concert manager for the UW-Madison School of Music.


About Focal Dystonia

Kyle Knox is only one of many musicians who was diagnosed with focal dystonia, many of them very famous. Glenn Gould, the pianist, and Robert Schumann, the 19th century composer, both are now believed to have suffered from it. Pianist Leon Fleischer used only his left hand for several decades while searching for a solution. A New York Times story in 2012 sheds light on this little-understood and seldom discussed condition. Another Times story recounts the story of pianist Fleischer.

Here’s how Kyle Knox describes it:

“Focal dystonia is far too complicated for me to paraphrase easily.  That said, I’ll try: Basically it is a neurological condition where the brain’s ability to rewire itself, called plasticity (normally a good thing as it enables the acquisition of new skills and information), becomes overactive. In the case of musicians, it becomes overactive in a very specific way that involves otherwise familiar gestures that have been long perfected through years of practice. To put it simply, music that was once effortless suddenly starts to ‘feel’ wrong.  It doesn’t sound wrong to outside listeners, but the neurological experience of playing, for example,  a certain finger combination,  becomes distorted in the player’s mind. As my neurologist told me, ‘all initial symptoms of musician’s focal dystonia are imperceptible to the outside observer.'”

A link from the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation provides more information.



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And the concerto winners are…..UW-Madison presents its annual “Symphony Showcase”

L-R: Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson. 

Kangwoo Jin, piano; Luis Alberto Peña, piano; Garrett Mendelow, percussion; and Paran Amininazari, violin. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

A percussionist, a violinist, two pianists and a composer will take the stage on Feb. 14 at the UW-Madison School of Music, when the school offers its annual “Symphony Showcase,” a night of joy and musical revelry celebrating winners of our annual concerto competition. The concert is open to the public.

Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson. 

Yunkyung Hong, composer. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

The concert takes place in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM on February 14, Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Sunday, and will be followed by a reception in Mills Hall lobby.

Winning students will solo with the UW Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Smith.

While tickets for children and students are free, tickets for adults are $10.00. Tickets are sold at the Memorial Union Box office on Langdon Street and in Mills lobby day of show. A $4 fee is added to online sales. Please note: We recommend that patrons arrive early to buy a ticket in the lobby.

Box Office link: Buy online ($4 fee).

Free parking (every Sunday) is available at the Business School/Grainger Hall parking lot, diagonally across University Avenue from Humanities.

2016 winners include:

Violinist Paran Amininazari, 31, a doctoral student of assistant professor Soh-Hyun Park Altino, performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, is the concertmaster of the Middleton Community Orchestra and is also the artistic director of the new summer chamber group, the Willy Street Chamber Players. At UW-Madison, she is also a member of the Hunt Quartet, sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Dr. Kato Perlman. She will play a movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63, written in 1935, which contains a Russian folk melody in the first and second movements and ends in a Spanish-tinged theme, complete with castanets.  Amininazari has an undergraduate degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and attended the Orchestral Skills Program at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Composer and South Korean native Yunkyung Hong, 31, is a doctoral candidate in composition, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. “Yun” received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin where studied composition with Russell Pinkston, Yevgeniy Sharlat, and Donald Grantham. At the University of Florida, she studied composition with James Paul Sain and Paul Koonce and received a master’s degree.

She has presented her music at The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS); Sejong Chamber Center (Korea); Unbalanced Concerts, University of Florida; Wet Inks, University of Texas at Austin; and has been commissioned by the Berliner Ensemble Essenz, Ensemble Mise-en at Illinois State. She has also won awards at the Out of Bounds Ensemble, the Mullen Sacred Music Composition at UW-Madison, the University of Missouri Kansas City composers competition and the American Prize chamber music division.  In Madison, Yun is now employed as a sound designer for UW-Madison’s “Moocs” program. Her winning composition, titled “Translucency,” includes four movements that reflect the life cycle of a living organism. For the winners recital only the first movement will be performed. “This first movement is about blossoming,” Yun says. “At the opening, we will hear a musical depiction of seeds fluttering in the wind, then gradually this material will develop and blossom at the arrival. The movement is focused on textural and coloristic alterations.”

Pianist and Collins Fellow Kangwoo Jin, 34, a doctoral student of professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson, is a native of South Korea who has won numerous competitions, including the Korea-Herald Newspaper Competition, the Eumyoun piano competitions, plus the Beethoven Piano Competition at UW-Madison,  sponsored by former Chancellor Irving Shain. He also performed a debut concert sponsored by the Chosun Daily Newspaper in Korea. Jin received an undergraduate degree from Hanyang University in South Korea and a master’s degree from  Indiana University, where has received the J.Battista Scholarship on Excellence and worked as an associate instructor. In Madison, Jin is an instructor in the School’s “Piano Pioneers” and Community Music Lessons programs, and has worked at the Summer Music Clinic as a collaborative pianist. Jin will perform the third movement from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor Op. 18.

Garrett Mendelow, 26, a doctoral percussionist and Collins Fellow studying with professor Anthony Di Sanza, has placed in numerous percussion competitions and premiered many new works. In 2012, Mendelow won second prize in the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in The Netherlands, and in 2014, he was a semifinalist at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany. Mendelow has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from SUNY-Stony Brook, and also studied at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold in Germany.
In Madison, Garrett has performed with trombone professor Mark Hetzler, with the ensemble SO Percussion and is also involved with the Beyond Border Percussion Group, a group consisting of percussionists from different cultural and musical backgrounds.

At Symphony Showcase, Mendelow will play the Arena Concerto, written in 2004 by Swedish composer Tobias Broström, which includes a combination of wood, metal and skin percussion instruments in the first part, and a virtuosic marimba part in the second movement.

Colombian Luis Alberto Peña, 27, a doctoral student of professor Christopher Taylor, has soloed with the Unimusica Orchestra, the Tolima Conservatory Symphony, the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra, the Meadows Symphony Orchestra, the Camerata Dallas, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Panama, and won prizes in competitions in Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the United States.
Luis holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, Southern Methodist University and the Juan N. Corpas University of Bogota. Luis will perform Richard Strauss’s Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra, composed in 1885-86, an exciting and colorful one-movement work. “What makes it particularly unique among romantic piano concertos is its predominantly humorous character,” says Luis. “However, it preserves an irresistible elegance and charm all throughout and all its wild brilliance is counterbalanced by many moments of incredible beauty and mystery.”

The Music of Franz Schubert
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Fischer & Lutes present a third “Schubertiade”

In homage to a beloved composer, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its third annual Schubertiade, an evening of songs, piano duets and chamber music by Franz Schubert, one day before the composer’s 219th birthday.

The concert will take place on Saturday evening, January 30, 2016 at 8 p.m. in Mills Concert Hall. The concert is hosted by pianist Martha Fischer, who is professor of collaborative piano and piano at the School of Music, and her pianist husband Bill Lutes, emeritus artist-in-residence. Alumna soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, who has sung with many major opera companies including Wolftrap in Washington, D.C., the Santa Fe Opera, the Minnesota Opera, as well as Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera and Madison Opera, will be a guest soloist. Guarrine now teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes

Martha Fischer & Bill Lutes

Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, in Himmelpfortgrund, near Vienna in Austria, and died at age 31, yet in that short span managed to write some 600 works for the voice, seven symphonies, operas, chamber music, and much more. He influenced many composers, including Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, and Schumann, and is now considered one of the most important composers of the late Classical and early Romantic eras.

Fischer’s and Lutes’s association with Schubert dates from their time as graduate students at the New England Conservatory of Music, where they discovered the composer and each other simultaneously. They married in 1984.

Schubertiades, which were popular during Schubert’s lifetime, were homey Viennese “house concerts” featuring the composer, fellow musicians and friends that offered music performances, dancing and carousing, often until dawn. At the School of Music, performers and patrons will be on stage together, seated in chairs and on sofas, to attempt to mimic the “house concert” style. For the first time, a public reception will be held afterwards.

The program will include a major work for piano duet, the Allegro in A minor, known as “Lebensstürme” or Life’s Storms, performed by Fischer and Lutes. Guarrine will sing one of Schubert’s final works, the delightful “Shepherd on the Rock,” along with Fischer and clarinet faculty Wesley Warnhoff.

Additional guests will include UW-Madison voice faculty Mimmi Fulmer and Paul Rowe; current University Opera director David Ronis; alumni singers Daniel O’Dea and Benjamin Schultz; current DMA candidate Sara Guttenberg; soprano Marie McManama; UW-Madison horn faculty Daniel Grabois; UW-Madison faculty violinist Soh-hyun Park Altino; UW-Madison faculty violist Sally Chisholm; adjunct professor of clarinet Wesley Warnhoff; alumnus cellist Ben Ferris; and Parry Karp, faculty cellist.

“The overarching idea for this year’s Schubertiade is music inspired by the motions and movements of the natural world, especially water, wind, and woodlands, forests and trees,” says Lutes. “The poems that Schubert chose for his lieder often feature vivid and evocative imagery from nature, while exploring our human emotional and spiritual responses to the natural world. As Schubert is moved by the natural world, we listeners are moved in turn by the sublime ‘nature music’ of his songs and instrumental works.”

Accordingly, the concert will offer one of Schubert’s best loved “water” songs, “Die Forelle” (The Trout) as well as the Theme and Variations movement derived from this song from the famous “Trout” Quintet for piano and strings.

This concert and future Schubertiades are being graciously underwritten by Ann Boyer.

Tickets are $15.00 for adults. Students of all ages are free.

Tickets are available through the Union Theater Box Office. Patrons may buy online ($4 fee) or save the fee and buy in person at Memorial Union or in Mills lobby day of show.

Please note: We recommend that patrons arrive early, both to secure a parking spot and to buy a ticket. Parking will be tight due to UW hockey, but parking passes may be ordered in advance to guarantee a space.

Options include H.C. White Garage (Lot 6); Fluno Center (Lot 83); University Avenue Ramp (Lot 20). VISA is accepted.

Complete this online request form or call the Special Events Office at (608) 262-8683. Please allow two weeks for processing. In the box for “special instructions,” please indicate “Schubertiade.”

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“Brass Fest II” to feature eclectic mix of jazz and folk vocals, solo trumpet, and works for brass quintet

From October 9 to 11, the UW-Madison School of Music will present its second brass music festival, following a spirited event last year that was enthusiastically received by students and the community.

This year, “Brass Fest II” has added a vocalist to the mix: a Norwegian singer who mixes jazz tunes with pop and folk music from the Middle East, Bulgaria, Spain and India. The three-day festival will also features two brass quintets and a solo trumpeter.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Brass”]

The festivals showcase the energetic, eclectic world of brass music, says festival organizer John Aley, professor of trumpet at UW-Madison and principal trumpeter of the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “We benefited from creative energy last year that continues to impact positively in the School of Music,” says Aley. “The performances will showcase some amazing talent and innovation including the surprising and delightful synergy of brass plus voice.”

On the docket this year:

Friday, October 9: Axiom Brass Quintet, 8 PM, Mills Hall. This lively Chicago quintet features repertoire ranging from jazz and Latin music to string quartet transcriptions, as well as original compositions for brass quintet.  Friday’s concert will offer an Elizabethan suite, “The Art of the Fugue” by J.S. Bach, and brass quintet works by Victor Ewald, David Sampson, and Patrice Caratini.

Axiom Brass is an Ensemble-in-Residence at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and at Chicago’s Rush Hour Concerts. They are winners of the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition (2012), the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (2012), the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize-winners of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea. Axiom Brass is comprised of Dorival Puccini, Jr., trumpet; Jacob DiEdwardo, horn; Kevin Harrison, tuba; Serdar Cizmeci, trombone; and Kris Hammond, trumpet.

Saturday, October 10: Festival Brass Choir with the Axiom Brass Quintet, the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, trumpeter Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and students/faculty of the School of Music. 8 PM, Mills Hall. Conducted by Scott Teeple, professor of music and wind ensemble conductor. The concert will include works by Astor Piazzolla, James M. Stephenson, Anthony DiLorenzo, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and a Bulgarian vocal work sung by Ms. Vik.

The Norwegian-born vocalist Elisabeth Vik was classically trained by Norwegian opera singer Rolf Nykmark, then moved on to study commercial music and music business at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England. She received a bachelors degree in pop-music performance, then moved to New York City. She has traveled the world gathering and learning techniques and musical expressions, giving her sound and stylings hints of Indian, Arabic, Spanish, Bulgarian as well as Norwegian flavors, superimposed upon a classical technique and an affinity for jazz.

American Adam Rapa is a dynamic performer, composer, producer and educator known for the excitement, energy and enthusiasm he brings to stages and classrooms around the world. Rapa has been featured as a special guest artist and clinician at trumpet conferences around the globe including the International Trumpet Guild conference, the National Trumpet Competition, and festivals in dozens of countries around the world. Adam performed and/or recorded with Grammy Award winners Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Doc Severinsen, Soulive, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Cyrus Chestnut, Jorge Pardo, Mnozil Brass, Belgian Brass, Alice in Chains, Academy Award winning film composer A.R. Rahman, and many others. Now living and freelancing in Copenhagen, Rapa plays lead trumpet in the Danish Radio Big Band and also performs with members of the Afro-Cuban All-Stars.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet, formed in 1972, is a faculty ensemble in residence at the UW-Madison. In addition to performing with the WBQ, the players have also been members of the American Brass Quintet, Empire Brass Quintet and Meridian Arts Ensemble. Current members include Tom Curry, tuba; Mark Hetzler, trombone; Daniel Grabois, horn; John Aley, trumpet; and Matthew Onstad, trumpet.

Sunday, October 11: Duo recital with trumpet soloist Adam Rapa, vocalist Elisabeth Vik, and musicians from the School of Music. 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.  Based in Denmark, the duo offers a creative blend of classical and jazz, melding traditional and modern repertoire with a Latin sizzle. Works will include the Carmen Suite by George Bizet, Så Skimrande Var Aldrig Havet by Evert Taube, arranged by Rapa & Vik, Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla arranged by Rapa, and Anitras Dance by Edvard Grieg, arranged by Vik & Rapa.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday concerts are $15 for adults, free for students and children. Sunday’s concert is free to all.

Buy tickets to both concerts and save!

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The School of Music rallies behind stricken student

Concert to Benefit UW-Madison Trombonist Brittany Sperberg

On Wednesday, March 18, the School of Music’s brassiest ensembles will join forces in a concert to benefit Brittany Sperberg, a formerly highly visible and energetic trombonist now stricken with an undiagnosed ailment. This semester, Brittany reluctantly withdrew from school to attend to her medical needs and her performing future is in doubt. She will also have to miss next month’s Carnegie Hall debut of the UW Wind Ensemble.

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany, a Shawano native, is a senior majoring in music education, now being treated full time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her symptoms began last August with a painful infection in her nasal cavity, and despite numerous tests, medications, surgeries, scans and biopsies, the cause and precise treatment remain a mystery. She was hospitalized on Christmas Eve, and while her family is insured, the out-of-pocket expenses–including travel, hotel, food and loss of employment from her mother who is at her side– are mounting.

Groups to perform at the benefit will include the UW Wind Ensemble, directed by Prof. Scott Teeple; the UW Jazz Orchestra, directed by Prof. Johannes Wallmann; the Low Brass Ensemble, directed by Prof. Mark Hetzler; Dat Brass, a funk horn band founded by Sperberg; and the Badger Brass, featuring her fellow students. Brittany performed in all of these ensembles, and more: she also played her trombone with the Latin Jazz Ensemble and even sang with the Twisted Metal Horn Choir, directed by Prof. Daniel Grabois.

“If you’ve spent any time with Brittany Sperberg, you know her as a person with energy, love and creativity, in amounts that go beyond the norm,” says her teacher, trombone professor Mark Hetzler. “Her heart is bigger than what should be possible, her mind is open to amazing ideas and her spirit always seems to soar. Even in the midst of this horrible illness, with her music career and trombone future up in the air, Brittany continues to keep a positive attitude and an incredibly upbeat sense of humor. She has been a true warrior in the face of this adversity.”

In November 2013, Brittany wrote an account of her experiences at the School of Music that remains one of the school’s all-time most popular posts.

Read it here: https://uwmadisonschoolofmusic.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/sperberg/

The benefit concert will be held in Mills Hall on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM. A suggested donation is $10.00, and more is welcome.

Online donations can be made at this website:

Checks may also be mailed to Mark Hetzler, 5326 Russett Rd., Madison, WI 53711. Please make checks out to “Brittany Sperberg.”
For more information or an interview, please contact
• Mark Hetzler at (608) 628-5026 or hetzler@wisc.edu.
• Katherine Esposito (608) 263-5615 or kesposito@wisc.edu

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250 Years Later, A Composer Gets His Due

It’s not very often that one receives international recognition 250 years after being placed in the ground. But with help from UW-Madison musicology professor Charles Dill and a host of international scholars and musicians, that’s exactly what’s happening for Jean-Philippe Rameau.

Rameau, a French composer (1683-1764) who lived during the reign of Louis XV, has become famous for his contributions to music theory, his early harpsichord works, and especially his operas. His 1722 Treatise on Harmony is considered revolutionary for having incorporated philosophical ideas alongside practical musical issues. His operas were equally famous for their rich choral singing and elegant dancing.  In the last few decades, interest in Rameau has intensified, with French scholars leading the way and organizing major festivals in Europe. Because of Dill’s renown as a scholar of Rameau and the Baroque, the UW-Madison School of Music will present a series of performances and talks about Rameau during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Charles Dill

Charles Dill

On November 13, the first of these events will kick off with a discussion about the expressive qualities in Rameau’s music (with visiting opera director David Ronis and Professor Anne Vila of the Department of French and Italian), followed by a concert the next day featuring Marc Vallon, UW-Madison professor of bassoon, in a mostly-Rameau concert. You can read the full schedule of events here.

We asked Prof. Dill to tell us a bit about himself and what makes Rameau an important figure in music.

How did you first become interested in Rameau?

“Modern audiences often view all composers of the past as struggling visionaries. This may be true of composers after Beethoven, but it isn’t true—or isn’t true in the same way—for earlier composers, even composers like Mozart or Haydn. They considered themselves to be working at a job. They wrote pieces to suit their performers, and the compositions were ‘disposable.’  If something needed changing, the composer changed it, generally without much grumbling. They didn’t continue to garner attention for decades.

“What first interested me about Rameau, then, was that he revised his operas extensively and these revised versions continued to be performed. This suggests all sorts of remarkable things about him and his works. Notably, he was alert to how audiences responded to his works to an unusual degree, and he felt some kind of obligation toward ‘getting the work right,’ as it were. That’s a very modern way of thinking about music. Because of this attitude, he also took risks as a composer. He was a remarkably creative individual, and he was rewarded for it. His works dominated French opera for a period of fifty years, until well after his death. For his time and place, this truly was an unusual relationship between composer and audience.

“Add to that Rameau’s work as a theorist. Thinkers had been speculating about how music works for as long as music had existed, but Rameau was the first to envision a comprehensive system that accounted for all of its aspects: how keys or tonalities come into being, why some harmonic progressions are more effective than others, how musical knowledge influences performance. We still employ his basic terminology for describing fundamental principles of music—chord inversion, tonic, dominant. There were flaws in his ideas, to be sure, and there have been countless other systems proposed since that make similar claims, but if you imagine music as an organized, coherent system—something we do every day—then you are, to a degree, following in his footsteps.

“And finally, around the year 2000, everyone became much more interested in Rameau, in response to a series of extraordinarily good performances and recordings, many of them under the direction of William Christie. It is no exaggeration to say the world thinks of Rameau differently as a result of William Christie’s work with the group Les Arts Florissants.

How did you become a Rameau specialist?

“I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. When I began working in Parisian libraries in the late 1980s, as a graduate student completing my degree, there were only a handful of people studying Rameau. Students from that generation have done influential work. Thomas Christensen explained the development of Rameau’s music theory, Sylvie Bouissou became the general editor of the Rameau edition, and William Christie specialized in interpreting Rameau’s music in performance.

“I was interested in Rameau’s relationship with audiences. Music criticism was still a fledgling enterprise in the eighteenth century, and yet his compositions elicited strong opinions, both for and against. He was one of the first composers to be treated not simply as a commodity, but as a public figure, one of the first to take that role seriously. To an unusual degree, he felt the need to experiment in his compositions, and yet he was also forced by circumstances to consider listeners and their perceptions in everything he wrote. After all this time, I still find this story remarkable.

“Times have changed. Nowadays, France recognizes Rameau as one its most representative composers and devotes time, money, and effort to developing our knowledge of him. A small army of dedicated French researchers is poring over every available source and producing first-rate scholarship. They’re doing wonderful work.”

What contributions have you made to scholarship?

“When I began writing about Rameau, there was a longstanding trend to approach composers solely from the vantage point of what they wrote. We could describe this as the ‘great composers’ or ‘great works’ approach. Discussing composers in this way cuts out some of the most interesting material: what audiences believed, how they liked what they heard, how they received the composers, and how composers responded to criticism. My book, Monstrous Opera: Rameau and the Tragic Tradition (1998), which Princeton University Press has recently reprinted as part of its Legacy series, addressed some of these questions. As an eminently public figure, Rameau was subject to intense scrutiny. Some critics distrusted opera as an overly sensual medium, and some regarded Rameau’s colorful music as an especially egregious example. Rameau encouraged these kinds of responses. Where earlier composers generally wrote simple, unobtrusive music, Rameau wrote music that demanded attention. In a way, then, he challenged critics and audience members to define their expectations regarding music openly and publicly. It is telling that, during the period in which he became popular, audiences changed, coming to resemble modern audiences more and more: they began to learn difficult and complex music by heart, they grew more quiet and became more attentive during performances.

“My other contributions have had to do with aspects of his career. My early publications often dealt with the relationship between Rameau’s ideas as a music theorist and his actual compositions. Having an eighteenth-century composer who was so active on both fronts is truly unusual, and it allows us to think more carefully about the relationship between theory and practice. More recently, I’ve been interested in reconstructing Rameau’s intellectual life. He was a bit of a magpie, really, taking ideas from the writers and philosophers who most suited his needs, but given the time and place in which he lived, he could take from the best: Descartes and Malebranche were early sources of inspiration, but eventually, like so many of his contemporaries, he turned his attention to Locke. Among those who collaborated with him on projects were Voltaire, Diderot, and d’Alembert. So I’ve been developing a clearer sense of what he himself actually believed, based on what he drew on from these various sources.”

How does Rameau fit in with other well-known composers of the day?

“Rameau was two years older than Handel and Bach, almost an exact contemporary. Interestingly, although there’s no evidence to suggest he knew their music well, he helped popularize in France the kinds of music they were writing. From the Handel side of things, he took the kind of virtuosic playing and singing we associate with Italian composition, and from the Bach side, he took an interest in complex counterpuntal and harmonic language. To these he added an extraordinary sense of color—few at this time were combining orchestras and voices in such surprising ways—and an endless gift for invention comparable to Bach’s and Handel’s. During the late 1740s, a faction arose at the French court that wanted to set limits on how many operas Rameau could compose, because they felt he was dominating the music scene so completely.

“Rameau was well known internationally. Initially, this was the result of his theoretical ideas, which he began publishing in the 1720s; reviews appeared almost immediately in Germany. By the 1750s, when his theoretical ideas were being popularized, his work was receiving attention in Italy as well. He also became an international figure musically in this period. His works were performed in Italy and Germany, and they were influential among the reform composers of that generation—Traetta, Jomelli, and Gluck. (For example, the famous opening scene of Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice, which begins in the midst of a funeral procession, was directly modeled on the beginning of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux.)”

What activities have taken place around the world this year, and where?

“Well, as is always the case with composers, there have been performances around the world—in France and, more generally, Europe, obviously, but in the states as well, notably in New York and Washington D.C. In fact, a phone app has circulated in France so that one can follow where Rameau is being performed every day this year.

“Raphaëlle Legrand, who teaches at the Sorbonne, has put together a fascinating year-long series of presentations, open to the public, that combine historians, music theorists, professional musicians specializing in period instruments, and professional dancers specializing in historical dance techniques. This project is called the ‘Atelier Rameau’ and it has an excellent website. It has been especially interesting to have singers, instrumentalists, and dancers working together, because dance is so basic to Rameau’s musical style. Performers quickly developed a new sense of what was and wasn’t possible when they began talking to each other!

“The biggest events, however, were two international conferences that united all of the scholars currently working on Rameau. The first was held last March in Paris. Sponsored by the French national library and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), the French government’s principal sponsor of scholarly research, ‘Rameau between Art and Science’ was held over three days at the Bibliothèque National, the Cistercian abbey at Royaumont (where an important research library is housed), and the Opéra-Comique (which premiered a new production of Rameau’s comedy, Platée). The second, ‘Jean-Philippe Rameau: International Anniversary Conference,’ was held at St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, this past September. It was part of a vast research effort, The Rameau Project, which is being overseen at Oxford by Graham Sadler and Jonathan Williams. Both conferences were remarkable.

“Among the surprises, those in attendance learned that we are still discovering eighteenth-century production scores for Rameau’s earliest and most important works, and that Rameau was the composer of the famous round, ‘Frère Jacques,’ which he included in a recently discovered composition manual. I can honestly say that this past year has advanced our knowledge of Rameau and his music in unprecedented ways.”


David Ronis
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University Opera Presents Britten’s “Albert Herring”

University Opera presents Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten’s entertaining ensemble comedy with a social message

On October 24, 26, and 28, University Opera will present its first operatic production of the season, Albert Herring, composed in 1947 by Benjamin Britten. The libretto is based on Guy de Maupassant’s novella Le Rosier de Madame Husson, and was written by Eric Crozier. It was premiered in 1947 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in East Sussex, England, and received its first United States premiere at Tanglewood in 1949. It has been called the greatest comic opera of the century.

It will mark the first opera staged under the direction of David Ronis, visiting director of opera at UW-Madison. Read about David Ronis’s new ideas for University Opera. 

The opera will be performed in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 26 at 3 p.m., and Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.


The story begins when the town council in the small English village of
Loxford, motivated by the formidable Lady Billows, meets in order to select a “chaste and virtuous” Queen of the May. When no young ladies can be found that fit the bill (scandale!), they decide to choose a King of the May instead. The young man they select is the nerdy Albert Herring. Henpecked by his mother, Albert dreams of going out on his own. For the moment, however, he does not have the emotional wherewithal to break loose from her tether. That changes when his contemporaries, Sid and Nancy, spike his drink during the celebration. Under the influence of alcohol, he conquers his inhibitions and disappears overnight. The next morning, the whole town believes him to be dead. But Albert, of course, reappears and proceeds to tell them all off. Thus, Britten’s opera is both a coming of age story as well as one that gently examines the nature of hypocrisy in modern society.

Although originally set in 1900, the University Opera production transports Albert Herring to 1947, the year it was written. At that time, England was still reeling from the hardships of World War II. By setting the opera at the the time of its creation, University Opera hopes
to reflect some of the social and economic challenges faced by Britten and
his colleagues when they started the English Opera Group. Some of Britten’s most important work dates from this period in which he wrote for the same forces of 13 instrumentalists and a small group of singers, and consequently made a huge contribution to the genre of the chamber opera.

The 13-character cast of Albert Herring features William Ottow and Joshua Sanders in the title role, as well as Jessica Kasinski and Tyana O’Connor as Lady Billows. Additionally, the production will include Alaina Carlson and Jennifer DeMain as Nancy, Brian Schneider as Sid, Joel Rathmann as the Vicar, Tia Cleveland as Mrs. Herring, Sheila Wilhelmi as Florence, Dennis Gotkowski as the Mayor, Emi Chen as Emmie, Emily Weaver as Cis, and Nicole Heinen and Sarah Richardson as Miss Wordsworth. Three local performers join the cast – Rick Henslin as Superintendent of Police Budd, as well as Michael Chiaverini and Eli Kuzma, boys who sing in the Madison Youth Choir, splitting the role of Harry. The instrumental forces for Albert Herring will be the University Opera Orchestra, conducted by Kyle Knox, with musical preparation by Mr. Knox, Chan Mi Jean, and Thomas Kasdorf.

The production staff include scenic designer Stephen Hudson-Mairet, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, lighting designer Jordan Kardasz, prop designer Dana Fralick, scene painting advisor Liz Rathke, technical director Greg Silver, and production stage manager Erin McDermott. Student staff include Emi Chen, costumes; Katie Oliver and Fabian Qamar, props; Melanie Treuhaft, scene painter; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Lukas Heins, assistant carpenter.

Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu.

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Pro Arte Quartet Channels Allen Ginsberg in “Howl” Composition

World Premiere of New Chamber Work Scheduled for Sept. 26

Also: Open Rehearsal, Friday, Sept. 25, 9 to noon, Mills Hall.

Encore Performance Sunday, Sept. 27, Chazen Museum, 12:30 p.m.

When Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg published “Howl” in 1956, he may have anticipated the obscenity charges he faced because of the work’s highly charged content. Chances are he didn’t foresee his epic poem, now considered a significant work of American literature, as the source of inspiration for a 21st Century chamber music composition.

The Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet during a rehearsal last spring with Belgian composer Benoit Mernier

Pierre Jalbert, an American composer of French-Canadian decent, thought otherwise. When commissioned by the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet to compose an original work to help the quartet celebrate its centennial season, Jalbert chose Ginsberg’s poem as his source of inspiration. Jalbert’s “Howl” for clarinet and string quartet will receive its world premiere by the Pro Arte on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus. The event, free and open to the public, will be the first classical music concert to take place in the historic theater’s newly refurbished Shannon Hall.

The 8 p.m. concert will be preceded by a 7 p.m. concert preview discussion with Jalbert in Shannon Hall. In addition to Jalbert’s composition, the evening’s program includes the String Quartet No. 2 in A Major (1824) by Juan Crisóstomo Arriga and the Clarinet Quintet in A Major (1791) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The concert will be repeated Sunday, Sept. 28, at 12:30 p.m. in Gallery III at the Chazen Museum of Art, also on the UW-Madison campus. Joining the Pro Arte for both concerts will be clarinetist Charles Neidich, a regular member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and noted guest performer with orchestras and string quartets worldwide.

Clarinetist Charles Neidich

Clarinetist Charles Neidich

“The Jalbert quintet is a very exciting composition, often very rhythmic, but with very serenely quiet contrasting sections,” said Neidich. “It is also interesting in that the clarinetist has to switch to bass clarinet, creating a very different sound for the group.”

Ginsberg, who died in 1997, began work on “Howl” as early as 1954. The poem was first published in “Howl and Other Poems” in 1956 as part of the “Pocket Poets” series by fellow beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, also known as founder of City Lights Books in San Francisco.

Upon the poem’s release, both Ferlinghetti and City Lights manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested and charged with distributing obscene material because of the poem’s profanity, drug references and frank sexual content. Four months later, Judge Clayton Horn ruled that the work was not obscene and charges against Ferlinghetti and his employee were dropped.

Judge Horn deemed “Howl” to have redeeming social content, and over the years it’s proved its worth, both in terms of social and literary value, according to Dr. Lynn Keller, the Martha Meier Renk Bascom Professor of Poetry in the UW-Madison Department of English.

” ‘Howl’ stands out stylistically in its compellingly and varied repetition of words beginning successive lines, its near surrealist imagery, and its combination of agonized depictions at once hellish and lofty with a very appealing sense of humor,” Dr. Keller said. “In terms of content, it also stands out in celebrating the down-and-out hipster as spiritual quester and visionary.”

As part of the Beat Generation – as much a social as a literary phenomenon – Ginsberg’s celebration of physical pleasures and suspicions about “the military industrial complex” created a new path that still appeals to younger audiences. “It is a powerful poem, a howl from the heart of an agonized generation in a repressive era,” Dr. Keller said. Jalbert was familiar with the poem prior to the Pro Arte commission, but it was only after he started composing the work that he began to realize the influence Ginsberg had on the music. Those similarities had less to do with the poem’s content and more to do with its structure and rhythm, the composer said.

Composer Pierre Jalbert

Composer Pierre Jalbert

“At the beginning of my piece, the clarinet is basically playing long tones, creating a long line much like the long lines in Ginsberg’s poem, while the strings present the rhythmically pulsating harmonic underpinning,” Jalbert said. “Ginsberg’s poem has been called a  ‘litany of praise,’ and the second movement of my work becomes a litany, much like a series of prayers in a liturgy, with the strings creating chant-like lines while the clarinet becomes the vox Dei, or “voice of God,” hovering mysteriously over everything. The third movement returns to the musical materials from the first movement, but now the bass clarinet takes on the virtuosic role.”

In keeping with emotional soundings in parts of “Howl,” Jalbert also has attempted to capture the “shrieks” that were characteristic to the poem alongside the aforementioned litany of praise.

“There are buildups to shrieking moments in my piece as well as a “howl” motive of a low chord slurred up to an immediate high cluster, all played very forcefully,” said Jalbert. “There’s also something very urban about parts of the poem and to me, there’s an urban quality in my first and third movements. There are also many religious allusions and the last words of Christ on the cross, so the second movement uses some of this.”

The Jalbert composition is the final of six commissions for the Pro Arte Centennial seasons, and it has all the earmarks of a contemporary works with staying power, according to Neidich.

“Having studied the score, I believe that it will be accessible to listeners and exciting to hear,” said Neidich. “It features the clarinet both in the role of soloist and as contributor to the sonority of the ensemble. It has all the necessary attributes to become a significant work.”

The Jalbert commission also brings to an end the Pro Arte’s seasons of centennial celebration in honor of the quartet’s long and storied history.  The Quatuor Pro Arte of Brussels, first formed in 1911-1912, was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theatre on the UW-Madison campus on May 10, 1940, when Belgium was overrun and occupied by Nazi forces, turning three of its original four musicians into war orphans. By October of that year, the group had officially become the UW Pro Arte Quartet, making it the first artist ensemble-in-residence at any university in the world. At more than 100 years old, Pro Arte also is thought to be the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet.

In May, the Pro Arte returned to Belgium to perform the European premiere of its fifth centennial commissioned work, Belgian composer Benoît Mernier’s String Quartet No. 3. The work had received its world premiere on March 1 Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus with the composer in attendance. Read about their Belgium adventures in a local blog, The Well-Tempered Ear.
The Pro Arte Quartet includes violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp.

Sarah Schaffer 608/217-6786
Mike Muckian 608/287-6261




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UW-Madison showcases Brass, Jazz, and Composers in 2014-15 Music Festivals

Brass, jazz and three composers–American George Crumb, Cecilia McDowall of the United Kingdom, and France’s Jean-Philippe Rameau — will be showcased this year at the UW-Madison School of Music in the form of five multi-event guest artist festivals, starting in October and continuing through April. Funding is provided by the Vilas Trust and Anonymous Fund at UW-Madison. We thank them for their support.

Other notable events will include an eight-concert faculty/student “Showcase Series” series, presenting some of the most dynamic music that the School has to offer. Click here for Showcase info.

Some events are ticketed (click here for info). Tickets will go on sale one month ahead of time. All other events at the School of Music, including dozens of faculty recitals, student ensembles and individual guest artists, continue to be free.

Oystein Baadsvik

Oystein Baadsvik

Our 2014-15 festivals include:

“Celebrate Brass”
Wednesday, October 8 — Monday, October 13, 2014

Brass music is often known for its swagger, but it is also famous for delicate polyphonies and burnished tones. We invite the public to experience the beauty of brass first-hand at a festival featuring both a full array of music and musicians, many at the height of their careers.

Performers will include famed Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik, the only musician to have created a career as a tuba soloist, rather than becoming a member of an orchestra or accepting a teaching post. His multi-faceted musical career as a soloist, chamber musician and recording artist has taken him all over the world. Øystein Baadsvik’s international career began in 1991 when he was awarded two prizes at the prestigious Concours International d’Exécution Musicale in Geneva.

Baadsvik will be joined by hornist Jessica Valeri (BM, UW-Madison, 1997) of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Michigan’s Western Brass Quintet, UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Brass Quintet, renowned brass composer and blogger Anthony Plog, new UW-Madison faculty tubist Tom Curry, as well the best brass players and conductors at the University, including a Brass Choir led by conductor Scott Teeple.

Events will include concerts, solo recitals, masterclasses, brass coachings, a colloquium and a reception.
Click here for full schedule.

The 4th Annual UW-Madison/Madison Metropolitan School Jazz Festival
Wednesday, December 3 — Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ingrid Jensen in Brooklyn, NY. June 2005photo by Angela Jimenez

Ingrid Jensen

A festival featuring workshops and performances for college and high school jazz performers. This marks the first time that UW-Madison will host the event.

This festival will feature Ingrid Jensen, trumpeter, bandleader, artist-in-residence at the University of Michigan and part-time faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory. Ingrid Jensen has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for over 20 years. Her three CDs for the ENJA label and her latest CD, “At Sea,” won her nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards, including an award in 1995 for Vernal Fields. In addition to her work as a leader of the quartet Project O and the quintet Nordic Connect, Jensen is a featured soloist with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, with whom she recorded four albums, including the Grammy Award-winning “Concert in the Garden” and “Sky Blue,” the former of which was also named Jazz Album of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Jensen is a member of the Mosaic project with Terri-Lynn Carrington, Esperanza Spaulding and Geri Allen; the Darcy James Argue’s Grammy-nominated Secret Society; the Juno-award winning Christine Jensen Orchestra; has been featured on Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, under the direction of Maria Schneider; and has appeared as a guest in the festival’s “Tribute to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard”, alongside Terence Blanchard, Eddie Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Kenny Garrett.

The festival will include master classes in jazz trumpet and improvisation, open rehearsals, a Saturday high school clinic, and performances with UW jazz ensembles and high school big bands from Madison and Middleton.

This festival is free and open to the public.
Click here for full schedule.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero”: A concert series and residency showcasing the music of British composer Cecilia McDowall
Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 23, 2015

In 2009, after premiering a McDowall work, “Framed,” UW-Madison trumpet professor John Aley discovered for himself what he describes as the “challenging, energizing, poetic, clever, tongue in cheek, and utterly beautiful” music of Cecilia McDowall.

Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

Our festival, organized by Aley, will feature the first-ever United States residency of British composer Cecilia McDowall and the US premiere of her symphonic work “Seventy Degrees Below Zero,” commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia and the Scott Polar Research Institute, based in Cambridge, England.

Often inspired by extra-musical influences, McDowall’s writing combines a rhythmic vitality with expressive lyricism. She has won many awards and has been short-listed several times for the British Composer Awards. Her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, ensembles and at major festivals both in Britain and abroad and has been broadcast on BBC Radio and worldwide.

“Seventy Degrees Below Zero” is a cantata for solo voice (to be sung by faculty tenor Jim Doing) and orchestra, inspired by a phrase written by British captain Robert Falcon Scott to his wife, prior to his death while returning from an expedition to the South Pole: ‘Dear, it is not easy to write because of the cold – 70 degrees below zero.’ ”

Joining us on Saturday will be Michael DuVernois of the UW-Madison IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, only recently returned from the Antarctic, who will present an entertaining and educational talk, complete with historic and modern photographs, on the progression of Antarctic exploration from the heroic age through modern science on the coldest, highest, driest continent.

Other works to be performed during the three-day festival include the first US performances of “Regina Caeli,” for four trumpets and four trombones, and “Cavatina at Midnight,” for clarinet, cello and piano. Her haunting choral works “Ave Regina” and “Ave Maris Stella” will be performed by the UW Chamber Choir, directed by Bruce Gladstone. In addition to Jim Doing, faculty performers will include pianists Christopher Taylor and Martha Fischer, clarinetist Linda Bartley, soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn, oboist Kostas Tiliakos, trombonist Mark Hetzler, trumpeter John Aley, cellist Parry Karp, percussionist Anthony Di Sanza, violist Sally Chisholm, and others.

In 2008, the Phoenix Chorale won a Grammy Award for “Best Small Ensemble Performance” for its Chandos CD, “Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary,” which included a work, “Three Latin Motets” by Cecilia McDowall.

Click here for full schedule.
Read a review in The Guardian newspaper of the UK premiere of “Seventy Degrees Below Zero.” 

“Honoring George Crumb at 85”
Sunday, March 22 and Monday, March 23, 2015

George Crumb has been a major force in American composition since the 1960s when his Ancient Voices of Children set to texts by Garcia Lorca provided an evocative and deeply personal response to late modernist serialism. The winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy, Crumb continues to compose new works, most recently his American Songbooks, that celebrate the magic and mystery of life. Crumb’s music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles and quotes from pre-existing works, and his use of extended instrumental techniques shows his predilection for new sound colors. Many of Crumb’s works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores.

Miranda Cuckson

Miranda Cuckson

Crumb’s 85th birthday provides an opportunity to celebrate this composer through concerts, workshops, and master classes featuring guest artists as well as our own faculty and students. The program will include a performance of the “Crumb Madrigals” by Chicago duo Due East and a concert by New York-based violinist Miranda Cuckson, as well as a performance of “The Violinists in My Life,” written by faculty composer Laura Schwendinger.

Cuckson is highly acclaimed for her performances of a wide range of repertoire, from early eras to the most current creations. In demand as a soloist and chamber musician, she appears in major concert halls, as well as at universities, galleries and informal spaces. She has performed at such venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Miller Theatre, the 92nd Street Y, Guggenheim Museum, and many more.

Nunc (Latin for “now”) was founded in 2007 as “Transit Circle ” by artistic director and violinist/violist Miranda Cuckson, and was renamed and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2012. Nunc is devoted to presenting high-caliber performances of music of current, recent and older eras, through distinctive programming that highlights their innovations and contributions.

Due East (Erin Lesser, flutes; Greg Beyer, percussion) actively promotes new music and seeks to expand the flute and percussion duo genre through frequent commissions and premieres. Their first recording, Simultaneous Worlds, is available on Albany Records. Their second recording, Drawn Only Once, is a multi-media CD/DVD now available on New Amsterdam Records. Noted critic Steve Smith gave it a rare 5.0-star rating in Time Out New York, calling it “spellbindingly beautiful.”
Click here for full schedule.
Read a review of Miranda Cuckson in the New York Times.

“Rediscovering Rameau”
Multiple events; check back later for more details.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau.

A year-long festival marking the 250th anniversary of the death of French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.
The UW-Madison and community partners will offer a series of public events beginning this fall and culminating in April with two concert performances of Rameau’s one-act opera, Pygmalion, by the Madison Bach Musicians.
Learn more about Rameau here.


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Remembering and celebrating the life of Howard Karp

Howard Karp, professor emeritus of piano at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, died of complications of cardiac arrest on Monday, June 30 at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, close to his beloved summer home in Estes Park, surrounded by his wife and sons. He was 84.


Howard Karp. Photo by Katrin Talbot.

“Howard Karp was an inspirational presence as both an educator and performer,” says Susan Cook, director of the UW School of Music. “He taught generations of students and helped make the Wisconsin Idea international by recruiting pianists worldwide. His influence continues to shape the School of Music and its mission.”

For many music lovers, the Madison concert season begins with the annual Karp Family Concert each Labor Day. In 38 years, three generations of the Karp family — piano, cello, violin, viola and spoken word — never repeated a piece, premiering new works and celebrated masterpieces in front of some of Mills Hall’s largest crowds. However, the 2014 concert — originally scheduled for September 1 — has now been cancelled. In its place is a tribute event on Sunday, August 31, at 3 PM in Mills Hall. The public is welcome. A reception will follow.

Download the program here. (PDF)

In lieu of flowers, donations and contributions in Prof. Karp’s name may be made to the “Howard and Frances Karp Piano Scholarship Fund” University of Wisconsin Foundation, US Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI 53278.

Click here to read the story published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison News.

Click here to read Prof. Karp’s obituary.

Click here to read a story about Prof. Karp and fellow pianist Leonard Shure, published August 17, 2014 in the New York Times.

Howard Karp’s music is now available on SoundCloud and may be purchased through Albany Records and the UW-Madison School of Music Online CD Store.

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Summer Music Clinic celebrates eight decades of hitting the high notes: UW Communications



For 80 years, UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic has provided its campers with the chance to learn new skills through a variety of different classes and performance opportunities.

According to program manager Anne Aley, Summer Music Clinic offers two instructional sessions—one for middle school students, which was held the week of June 16, and one for high school students, which concludes Friday, June 27.

Read the full story here: