Category Archives: Instrumental

Coming up soon: Harbison Viola Sonata; Music of Frigyes Hidas; Percussion Concert with Film, Flowerpots and Drums

February 12, 2019

A very busy two weeks for the Mead Witter School of Music!

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
https://www.music.wisc.edu/

This weekend: World Premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Sonata with Sally Chisholm and pianist Timothy Lovelace

Sunday, February 17, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. $25. Buy tickets here.

Learn about the event here.

The concert includes solo performances by Chisholm and Lovelace and the full Pro Arte Quartet.

Read a recent Isthmus review of the Pro Arte Quartet.

On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Wisconsin State Journal published a story about the upcoming John Harbison events in Madison. Read the story here.


UW Wind Ensemble with soloist Midori Samson

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2:00 PM, Mills Hall.

With Scott Teeple, conductor and Cole Hairston and Ross Wolf, graduate conductors. This concert will be livestreamed. Check this page for updates: https://www.music.wisc.edu/video/

Midori Samson

Presenting doctoral bassoonist Midori Samson, winner of the inaugural Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition. Midori, student of Professor Marc Vallon and recipient of a Collins Fellowship at the school of music, has a secondary focus in social work. She holds roles as second bassoon in the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and principal bassoon in the Beloit-Janesville Symphony. She previously was a fellow in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has performed in several Chicago Symphony Orchestra family concerts, as well as with the Austin, Charleston, and New World Symphonies, the National Orchestral Institute, and the Pacific Music Festival. Midori holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the University of Texas at Austin.  Midori will perform the Concerto for Bassoon (1999) of Frigyes Hidas . Click to see full program.


UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, featuring works of composer Augusta Read Thomas

Thursday, February 14, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall – Free

Augusta Read Thomas

With Chad Hutchinson, conductor, and graduate conductors Michael Dolan and Ji Hyun Yim. Click to see full program.

Augusta Read Thomas will be in residence at UW-Madison for this concert. Join us for a master class with Ms. Thomas, Feb. 14, 2:00 to 5:00 PM, Morphy Hall.

Among her many accomplishments, Ms. Thomas founded the University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition: “a dynamic, collaborative, and interdisciplinary environment for the creation, performance and study of new music and for the advancement of the careers of emerging and established composers, performers, and scholars.” An influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, and Aspen Music Festival, she is only the 16th person to be designated University Professor at the University of Chicago.  From 1997 through 2006, Thomas was Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, working with conductors Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez.


UW-Western Percussion Ensemble with guest composer Elliot Cole and percussionist Peter Ferry

Wednesday, February 20, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall

Ticketed – Children $7 – Adults $17. Buy tickets here; also sold at door.

Presenting a three-day residency by composer Elliot Cole and percussionist Peter Ferry, who will perform with the UW-Western Percussion Ensemble. Works on the program will include “The Future is Bright” for soloist, film, and percussion ensemble and “Hanuman’s Leap” for percussion group, digital playback, and voice. Learn more here.

Elliot Cole is a composer and “charismatic contemporary bard” (NY Times).  He has performed his music with Grammy winners Roomful of Teeth, Grammy nominees A Far Cry and Metropolis Ensemble, as well as the Chicago Composers Orchestra, New Vintage Baroque, the Lucerne Festival Academy, and as a member of the book-club-band Oracle Hysterical.  His percussion music has been performed by over 250 percussion ensembles all over the world.  In 2017 he was invited by Talks at Google to share his unique approach to music through computer programming.  He is on faculty at New York’s The New School and Juilliard’s Evening Division, and is program director of Musicambia at Sing Sing prison, where he works with a music school for incarcerated men.


University Opera and University Theatre: Sondheim’s Into the Woods

From February 21 through 24, University Theatre and University Opera, in partnership with the Wisconsin Union Theater, will co-present Into the Woods at Shannon Hall in the Memorial Union, marking the first time in twelve years that the Mead Witter School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Drama have collaborated on a production.  David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop director of opera, will direct, and Chad Hutchinson, orchestra director, will conduct.

Five performances are planned: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.
Read about the show.
Buy tickets here.


Guest Artist: Rhea Olivaccé, soprano, with Martha Fischer, piano

The Black Voice – A Collection of African American Art Songs and Spirituals

Recital: Saturday, February 23, 6:30 PM, Morphy Hall
Master class: February 22, 5:00 PM, Morphy Hall
Free and open to the public.
Read more. 


In New York: Laura Schwendinger’s Artemisia

March 5–9, 2019
Trinity Church Wall Street
St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway and Fulton Street, New York City

The Time’s Arrow Festival continues its commitment to amplifying the voices of female artists across multiple mediums. The festival includes the fully staged world premiere of the new opera Artemisia by UW-Madison faculty composer Laura Schwendinger. Artemisia tells the story of the Baroque artist who portrayed herself as Susanna in her famous painting Susanna and the Elders.

Schwendinger’s “High Wire Act” praised in Boston

From the Boston Classical Review: “If one needed to be reminded that a program of contemporary music can be engaging – even riveting – on its own terms, Collage New Music’s concert’s Sunday night at Pickman Hall was the place to be. CNM music director David Hoose led a reading of High Wire Act that brimmed with personality. Sarah Brady’s realization of Schwendinger’s brilliant flute writing was particularly compelling: precise, nimble, and fiery.” Read the review here.


Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to the School of Music.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

The Carillon returns!

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
May 26, 2017

The Carillon returns!

We are happy to report that the UW-Madison Memorial Carillon concerts will resume on Sunday, May 28, 2017, at 3 pm, with Sunday afternoon concerts on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at least through the end of the summer (August).  Lyle Anderson, carillonneur, will return after having retired from state employment in August 2016.  Since that time, several safety, security and environmental issues in the 80-year-old tower have been addressed. The process is ongoing, so public access to the interior of the tower is not currently possible, but the carillon is best listened to in the area near the tower, on Observatory Drive across from Bascom Hall.

The History of the UW-Madison Memorial Carillon

Bells have been called man’s most universal musical instrument. The UW Memorial Carillon Tower and its bells have been a symbol of the Madison campus for over 80 years. Early in the 20th century, thought was given to provide the dome then atop Bascom Hall with a chime of bells (about a dozen bells that would play melodies). After the dome burned in 1916, ten years of graduating classes, from 1917 through 1926, contributed their senior gifts, called Class Memorials, to this purpose. By 1932 it was clear the dome was never going to be rebuilt, but the fund had accrued enough interest to consider building a free-standing tower and furnishing it with a 36-bell carillon, an instrument with a long history in the area of present-day Belgium, northern France and the Netherlands, where it had reached a high degree of perfection in the 17th century. But by the late 19th century, even the art of making a well-tuned bell was completely lost, to be rediscovered in England in 1899. The firm of Gillett and Johnston, of Croydon, England, became a leading bell foundry and began installing carillons in North America in the 1920s, providing a set of 25 bells in 1936 for the University of Wisconsin tower. The tower had been completed nearly a year previous, at a cost of about $30,000.

Although five additional small bells were added in 1937, by the late 1950s, four octaves of about 49 bells had become desirable to play most carillon music, so the carillon was expanded in 1963 to 51 bells, the additional bells cast by the French firm of Paccard, but with a keyboard that would accommodate 56 bells, paid for entirely by funds raised among Wisconsin alumni. The largest of the original bells cast in England weighs about 3,000 pounds, but it was always anticipated that eventually the carillon would be anchored by a bell weighing nearly 7,000 pounds. This was achieved in 1973 with the addition of five large bells made by the Royal Eijsbouts foundry of Asten, the Netherlands, who incidentally also replaced all of the French bells installed ten years earlier.

All the bells in the carillon are stationary, being rung by clappers inside each bell that are connected to a fairly simple, completely mechanical mechanism of wires and bars to a keyboard in the room just below the belfry. This is arranged much like a piano keyboard except that the keys are rounded wooden batons played with the ends of a closed hand instead of with fingers. The lowest 18 bells can also be played with the feet, to expand the instrument’s musical versatility. Since the instrument cannot ever be played in any sort of privacy, learning and practicing are accomplished by having a second keyboard with the same dimensions as the “real” one, but striking only small metal bars that are the same pitch as the bells.

Norris Wentworth ’24 led the committee that planned the tower’s construction and became the first “player of the bells,” serving until 1941. Then the carillon was played mostly on a voluntary basis by a series of students in the School of Music. In 1960 Professor John Wright Harvey became the first faculty appointed carillonneur, retiring in 1984, followed by Lyle Anderson in 1986, in a part-time academic staff position, until 2016.

 

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season newsletter/brochure that is mailed every August. To receive the brochure, please send your address to the School of Music, Room 5544, 455 North Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Take your pick: School of Music overflowing all April with beautiful noise

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

For this issue, we’ve prepared a special e-blast of selected final concerts at the School of Music. Many more, including student recitals and small ensemble concerts, can be found on our events calendar.

We hope you will make time to attend at least one!  (Click links to read musician biographies and learn about concert programs.)

The Perlman Trio holds its annual recital

Saturday, April 8, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Free event.
The trio, comprised of Chan Mi Jean, piano; Adam Dorn, violin; and Micah Cheng, cello, is sponsored by longtime donor Kato Perlman. The ensemble is chosen carefully to blend personalities and styles, and each spring concert is a treat for audiences. This year’s trio will present works of Haydn, Dvorak, and Brahms. There will be a reception after the concert.

The 2016-2017 Perlman Trio: Micah Cheng, viola; Chan Mi Jean, piano; and Adam Dorn, violin. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

32nd Annual Beethoven Piano Competition winners recital

2017 Beethoven Competition winners Kangwoo Jin, Leah Kang, and Alberto Peña-Cortes. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

Sunday, April 9, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Free event.
This long-running event is sponsored by former UW-Madison chancellor Irving Shain. The 2017 winners are Kangwoo Jin, Leah Kang, and Alberto Peña-Cortes. The program will include Beethoven’s Sonata in C Major, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”) (Kangwoo Jin); the Sonata in E Major, Op. 109 (Leah Kang); and the Sonata in A Major, Op. 101 (Alberto Peña-Cortes).


UW Symphony Orchestra Farewell Concert with Conductor James Smith

James Smith rehearses the UW Symphony for its final concert with him as conductor. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

Sunday, April 9, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Free event.

Professor James Smith, conductor of the UW Symphony and University Opera, came to UW-Madison in 1984 to conduct the Wind and Symphonic Ensembles and assumed orchestral conducting duties following the departure of David Becker. He has also served as longtime conductor of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and will retire from that post as well.
Smith was a professional clarinetist prior to becoming a conductor.


The Hunt Quartet presents a spring concert

The Hunt Quartet, 2016-2017. L-R: Kyle Price, cello.; Vinicius “Vinny” Sant’Ana, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; Chang-En Lu, violin. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.

Tuesday, April 11, 8:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Free event.
The Hunt Quartet is the graduate string quartet at the School of Music, co-sponsored by Kato Perlman and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. The Quartet is an integral part of the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s “Up Close and Musical” program, visiting area schools to teach students about fundamentals of music and the string quartet. This year’s members are Kyle Price, cello; Vinicius “Vinny” Sant’Ana, violin; Blakeley Menghini, viola; and Chang-En Lu, violin.


Stephanie Jutt: Final Faculty Recital

Stephanie Jutt. Photograph by Katrin Talbot.

Thursday, April 13, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Free event.

Flutist Stephanie Jutt bids farewell after 27 years
While at UW-Madison, Professor Stephanie Jutt founded Bach Dancing & Dynamite, a summer chamber music festival; UW-Madison’s Arts Venture Challenge; and shepherded many flutists through undergraduate and graduate work. She plans to continue as principal flutist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and as artistic director of Bach Dancing & Dynamite.


Emery Stephens: African-American Songs and Spirituals

(Rescheduled from March 13)
Wednesday, April 12, 6:30 PM, Music Hall.  Free event.
Emery Stephens, baritone, is assistant professor of voice at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Stephens will coach student singers and pianists in African-American songs and spirituals. Students will perform in a recital with Stephens and collaborative pianist professor Martha Fischer in a concert.


Pro Arte Quartet with guest artist Jazimina Macneil, mezzo-soprano

Wednesday, April 19, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall. Free event.

The Pro Arte’s  final concert of the academic year will feature a rising star singer and a world premiere by composer John Harbison.

String Quartet in E Major, Op. 54 No. 3 (1788)
Joseph Haydn

The Cross of Snow for Contralto and String Quartet (2016)
John Harbison
World Premiere of Version for Voice and String Quartet

String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 16 (1874)
Antonín Dvořák


Annual Varsity Band Concerts with Mike Leckrone

Mike Leckrone at the Cotton Bowl, January 2017. Photograph by Gary Smith.

April 20, 21 and 22, Kohl Center, 601 Dayton Street. All shows 7 PM. $23. Buy tickets.
Help us welcome Mike Leckrone back from his recent surgery! Learn more here.


UW Wind Ensemble

Scott Teeple, conductor.
Wednesday, April 26, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.   Free event.

Scott Teeple. Photograph by Katherine Esposito.

The Wind Ensemble offers a Wisconsin premiere of a work by Japanese composer Jun Nagao, and the Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble by Igor Stravinsky with Christopher Taylor on piano.

Guest bassist Linda Oh performs with Jazz Orchestra and UW High School Honors Jazz Band

Friday, April 28, 8 PM, Music Hall.

$15 adults/$5 students. Buy tickets online; also sold at door.
Additional events Tuesday -Thursday in Morphy Hall; click here for more information.
Johannes Wallmann, director

Our annual spring Jazz Fest features talented high school jazz musicians, who rehearse with the UW Jazz Orchestra and a guest. This year, our guest is bassist Linda Oh from New York City, who is featured on the cover of April’s Jazz Times magazine. Oh has played with many top musicians; she’ll appear with Pat Metheny at Ravinia on June 14. The week’s events include two free concerts and a ticketed concert on Friday night.

 


UW Concert Choir with cellist Matt Haimovitz

Friday, April 28, 8 PM, Mills Hall.

$15 adults/$5 students. Buy tickets online; also sold at door.

Presenting “Après moi, le deluge” by composer Luna Pearl Woolf
and “for Paris,” a world premiere for solo viola and choir by UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger.

With the Concert Choir and Sally Chisholm, violist of the Pro Arte Quartet.

Beverly Taylor, conductor

“Ferociously talented” (New York Times) cellist Matt Haimovitz, known for his renditions of the Bach Cello Suites as well as Radiohead, will return to Madison on April 28 to perform a work that he premiered here 11 years ago with the UW Concert Choir, one of UW-Madison’s most advanced choirs.

Read full news release here.

Watch: Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O’Riley: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, 2015


UW Choral Union & UW Symphony Orchestra

Saturday, April 29 (8 PM) and Sunday, April 30 (7:30 PM), Mills Hall.

$15 adults/$8 students. Buy tickets online; also sold at door.

Beverly Taylor, conductor

Presenting Paul Hindemith’s When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d (text by Walt Whitman).

A rarely done work because of its difficulty, this is an outstanding setting of Walt Whitman’s poem written about the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the train that carried his body to Springfield, Illinois. The work was commissioned by Robert Shaw in memory of Franklin Roosevelt, whose funeral train carried his dead body from Georgia back to Washington. The work is in memory of “those we loved.”

Below: The New York Philharmonic performed this work in 1946.


Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

UW-Madison brings Virtuoso (and Maverick) Cellist to Town – April 28

UW CONCERT CHOIR WITH CELLIST MATT HAIMOVITZ

April 28, 8 PM, Mills Hall

Presenting “Après moi, le deluge” by composer Luna Pearl Woolf. With Matt Haimovitz, cello.
and “for Paris,” a world premiere for solo viola and choir by UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger. With Sally Chisholm, viola.
Beverly Taylor, Conductor

$15 adults/$5 students
Buy tickets online (on sale March 1) or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.  Tickets will also be sold at the door.


“Ferociously talented” (New York Times) cellist Matt Haimovitz, known for his renditions of the Bach Cello Suites as well as contemporary works, will return to Madison on April 28 to perform a work that he premiered here 11 years ago with the UW Concert Choir, one of UW-Madison’s most advanced choirs.

Matt Haimovitz. Photo by Steph Mackinnon
Matt Haimovitz. Photo by Steph Mackinnon

“Après moi, le deluge,” a 22-minute composition for cello and choir, was written by his wife, composer Luna Pearl Woolf, to a text by poet Eleanor Wilner. Après Moi, le Déluge was written in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the United States’ Gulf Coast in late August 2005.

“Après moi, le déluge” are reputed to be the last words of Louis XV, king of France from 1715-1774 and the heir of Louis XIV, the king for whom Louisiana was named. Louis XIV’s legacy to Louis XV was a nation bankrupted by war and imperial ambition, a debt levied on the peasantry while the nobility lived tax-free. Louis XV ruled ineffectively, lived luxuriously, and died the most unpopular king in French history. “The words ‘après moi le déluge’,” according to Paul Jay of Independent World Television News, “have come to epitomize the psychology of those who ruin people and the earth with no thought for tomorrow.”

Après Moi, le Déluge was commissioned by Haimovitz as part of his “Buck the Concerto” series of commissions for cello and unusual ensembles. It was premiered in 2006 by Haimovitz and the UW-Madison Concert Choir with Beverly Taylor and recorded live for Oxingale Records. Haimovitz and the choir later took Après Moi, le Déluge on tour, performing in New Orleans in November, 2006. Après Moi, le Déluge also forms half of a fine-press book entitled Waterlines, with woodcuts and etchings by Michael Kuch, from Oxingale Press and Double Elephant Press.

At Harvard University prior to 1995, Concert Choir conductor Beverly Taylor directed the international prize-winning Radcliffe Choral Society, where she met Woolf, then a student at Radcliffe.

Since the 2006 premiere at UW-Madison, “Après moi, le deluge” has been performed many times, including in New York’s Trinity Wall Street Church on June 3, 2012. That concert also featured one of Schwendinger’s works, “Six Choral Settings.”

New York Times reviewer Steve Smith called “Après moi, le deluge” a “strikingly allusive concerto for cello and chorus that movingly reflects on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Somber, sardonic and bluesy, the episodic work received an impassioned account, with soulful solo work by Mr. Haimovitz, the soprano Martha Cluver and the bass-baritone Dashon Burton.”

Haimovitz, who is nominated for a Juno Award for Solo or Chamber Ensemble of the Year for his CD, “Overtures to Bach,” made his cello debut at age 13 with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. His first recording was for Deutsche Grammophon at age 17 with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He is considered a musical pioneer, favoring innovative venues and approaches to music. He is professor of cello at McGill University in Montreal. The New Yorker calls Haimovitz a “maverick cello virtuoso, who has long marched to the beat of a different drummer.”

Another major work on the program will be a world premiere of a work for viola and choir, “for Paris,” written by UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger in response to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. Sally Chisholm, violist of the Pro Arte Quartet, will be featured.

Schwendinger says: “The viola starts this short work by referencing only for a moment the merest idea of a “musette song,” one that might be heard on an evening in a Paris cafe. The choir enters with a simple refrain that repeats as an unanswered question of sorts. And each time the viola reenters the texture, it asks its question in a more pressing and poignant manner, until it arrives in its highest register, only to resolve with the choir with a quiet acquiescence in the knowledge that the answer may not be known.”

“Symphony Showcase” concerto winners Feb 12; UW Opera Announces Spring Show; Schwendinger’s “Artemisia” Premieres in NYC

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music – February 2, 2017

For Valentine’s Day: “Love Story, Steinway Version”

A treasured 1927 Steinway Baby Grand Piano, Model M, finds a new home at the Mead Witter School of Music. Click to read the story and view images behind the School’s newest donation, inspired by love.

mom_dadcrop


“Symphony Showcase” Concerto winners recital returns to delight and thrill

Watching a young musician solo on stage is always a treat, and every year we’re happy to show you some of our most talented, many already professionals. Please join us on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 PM in Mills Hall to hear and congratulate our students. Adult tickets are $10; children and all students are free. Tickets will be sold at the door. New this year: A reception at the University Club following the concert. The reception is included in the ticket price.

L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Photograph by Hannah Olson.
L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Not pictured: Nathan Froebe, composer. Photograph by Hannah Olson.

2016-2017 winners are:

  • Violinist Shing Fung (Biffa) Kwok, a doctoral student of Prof. David Perry and recipient of a Collins Fellowship. He will perform Tzigane by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Biffa is from Hong Kong.
  • Violinist Matthew Lee is an undergraduate senior, graduate of the Madison Memorial High School and alumnus of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. Matthew studies with Prof. Soh-Hyun Altino. He will perform the cadenza from the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, opus 77 of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).
  • Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, a native of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Matt is a master’s student of Prof. John Aley. He’ll perform the Trumpet Concerto in F Minor, Op. 18 by Oskar Böhme (1870-1938). Read about Matt in the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen: Beaver Dam native soars as trumpet player in Madison.
  • Soprano Anna Polum will sing “Amour, ranime mon courage,” written by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) for his opera adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Anna studies with Professor James Doing and hails from Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • Pianist Shuk-Ki Wong, will perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Shuk-ki studies with Professors Jessica Johnson and Christopher Taylor.
  • Composer Nathan Froebe, a doctoral student of Prof. Laura Schwendinger. The orchestra will perform the premiere of his Portrait d’une Femme, written for his friend and colleague, mezzo-soprano Jessica Kasinski.

University Opera to stage Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” in March

Fresh from winning two major awards in the 2015-16 National Opera Association Competition, University Opera will present Benjamin Britten’s gothic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, to round out its season.  In this, Britten’s last chamber opera, based on the Henry James novella of the same title, terror takes unexpected forms.  Premiered in 1954, The Turn of the Screw tells of a young governess who is hired to care for two children in an isolated country house in late 19th century England.  She soon realizes that the children are haunted by secrets and spirits that harm them in very real ways and she takes it upon herself to defend them.  In so doing, she is forced to confront the demons she perceives as threats, as well as her own internal ones.

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).
Benjamin Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild).

The Turn of the Screw will be presented in English for three performances, all with projected supertitles.  March 3 at 7:30 PM, March 5 at 3:00 PM, and March 7 at 7:30 PM at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus.  David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, will direct and graduate conducting assistant Kyle Knox will conduct the 13-member chamber orchestra.  Musical preparation will be by University Opera’s new vocal coach, Daniel Fung.

Click to read full news release.

Schwendinger opera “Artemisia” receives New York premiere

Next performance: Spring 2018, in San Francisco with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

On January 7, UW-Madison composer Laura Schwendinger unveiled Artemisia, a major new opera, at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City as part of its Time’s Arrow Festival.  The opera is a story of passion, betrayal and art in 17th century Italy based on the life of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. With a libretto by Ginger Strand, author of The Brothers Vonnegut, Artemisia is a recipient of a National Opera Center Discovery grant.

Real-life drama: Schwendinger’s “Artemisia” opera will premiere in New York City: Isthmus, 1.5.17

Preview in Broadway World, 1.7.17

Click to watch video of Artemisia’s premiere


Selected upcoming concerts and events:

Pro Arte Quartet, Saturday, Feb 4. With guest pianist Jee-Won Oh.

Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Final concert with retiring trumpeter John Aley, Sunday, Feb 26

Student Recitals: All semester.

Music Master Classes: Opportunities to observe guest musicians as they instruct and engage with college students.

Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Two More Opera Awards; Jazz Program Highlighted; Student Spotlight; Opportunities for Community Members

Happy New Year from the Mead Witter School of Music! And welcome to the first issue of A Tempo! for 2017

Two More Awards for UW-Madison University Opera

University Opera scores again with national recognition

Awards for two shows in 2015-2016

UW-Madison’s University Opera is on a roll. Both shows from last year, Transformations and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, have won awards in the National Opera Association’s (NOA) Opera Production Competition for 2015-2016. It is the second year in a row that UW-Madison has garnered an award from NOA, and the first time that each production was separately recognized. University Opera produces only two operas each year.

William Ottow and Rebecca Buechel in Transformations. Image by Michael R. Anderson.
William Ottow and Rebecca Buechel in Transformations. Image by Michael R. Anderson.

October 2015’s Le nozze di Figaro, with orchestra conducted by James Smith, placed second in Division IV, and March 2016’s Transformations, conducted by graduate assistant conductor Kyle Knox, garnered a first place award in Division III.

Both productions were directed by David Ronis, inaugural Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, who is now a six-time winner of the competition. His previous awards occurred while he worked at Queens College in New York.

Read the full news release.

UW-Madison Jazz Program highlighted- twice!

In December, Madison’s weekly newspaper Isthmus devoted a cover story to our burgeoning jazz program and its director, Johannes Wallmann

“By bringing more jazz to the university and beyond, Wallmann hopes to promote the notion that jazz isn’t just about the past, with its storied history and legendary names. It’s now also about highly trained musicians pushing the boundaries of the genre,” wrote author Jane Burns in her story, “Making a Scene.”

“ ‘Look up any end-of-the-year Top 10 list on NPR, Downbeat or The New York Times, and listen to what this generation of 20- and 30-somethings are up to, it’ll blow your mind,’ ” Wallmann says. “ ‘We want to prepare our students to be part of that.’ ”

…meanwhile, Wisconsin Public TV spotlights the jazz program as part of its “Young Performers” Initiative

For over a year, a dedicated crew from WPT – including alumna Megan Aley, who served as a producer – filmed Wallmann and his staff as they shepherded high school students through auditions for the UW High School Honors Jazz Band. The videos are intended to help aspiring musicians prepare for professional careers and college auditions.

New videos from Making Jazz web series will be released each Monday through Feb. 6. Learn more about the Young Performers Initiative and sign up for weekly releases of the jazz videos.

Meet our students: Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo, bassoonist

Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo came from the country of Colombia to study bassoon performance with Marc Vallon, professor of bassoon.  We asked her how she became involved in music, with the bassoon, and why she chose Wisconsin.

Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo
Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo

“I did my undergrad in music performance in the University El Bosque in Bogotá. I studied with Leonardo Guevara, the principal bassoonist of the National Symphony Orchestra. I learned very much while at school and I was able to play with many chamber ensembles when I was still in school. My first job as a bassoonist was in the Symphonic Band of Cundinamarca, and I worked there for a year during my last year of school. It was challenging, but I learned very much from this experience.

“In 2010, I received a master’s in bassoon performance with Saxton Rose at the University of North Carolina-School of the Arts. As I started to look into going back to school, I talked him, and he recommended that I applied to study with Marc Vallon at UW-Madison. I think it is one of the best decisions I have made in my life!”

Read Juliana’s story here, and click the arrow to learn about more of our students.

Two Community Opportunities – Deadlines Included

Sing with Choral Union this spring! Drop-in auditions will be held on January 18 for community members interested in singing a rare work: Paul Hindemith’s When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d. A rarely done work because of its difficulty, this is an outstanding setting of Walt Whitman’s poem written about the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the train that carried his body to Springfield, Illinois.  The work was commissioned by Robert Shaw in memory of Franklin Roosevelt, whose funeral train carried his dead body from Georgia back to Washington.  The work is in memory of “those we loved.”  Two concerts, April 29 & 30. Learn more here. 

Inviting high school pianists to take part in Pathways to Artistry: From the Practice Room to the Stage. A free, day-long event featuring workshops, masterclasses and performances hosted by UW-Madison’s keyboard faculty. High school pianists are encouraged to participate in the master classes and an honors recital.  More information and registration is at the link below. The deadline to register is January 31.

http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/pathways-to-artistry-uw-madison-keyboard-day/

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Two Concerts – Seats Available

Sunday, January 22, 4 PM, Mills Hall

Sonatas for Violin and Piano

Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino and pianist Christopher Taylor, both faculty artists, perform the Sonata for Violin and Piano by John Corigliano (1963) and the Sonata in A Major by Gabriel Fauré (1875-76). Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for non-UW music students.  Learn more here.

Sunday, January 29, 3 PM, Mills Hall

Our Annual Schubertiade: “Circle of Friends”

This year’s Schubertiade with pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes will feature acclaimed alumna soprano Emily Birsan.  The concert will be followed by a reception (included in the ticket cost) at the University Club. Tickets are $15 per adult and $5 for non-UW music students. The concert is sponsored by Madison resident Ann Boyer, an admirer of Franz Schubert’s music and the musical talents of Fischer and Lutes. Learn more here.

Emily Birsan
Emily Birsan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni News

We want to hear from you- please click the link to read about our graduates and send your news!

Our Full Concert Calendar

calendar

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

2016-2017 Concerto Competition Winners Announced – Concert Feb. 12

Two violinists, one pianist, one trumpeter, and one vocalist will solo with UW Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Smith.

In addition, the music of composition student Nathan Froebe will be performed.

The concert is in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM. There will be a free public reception immediately following at the University Club, 803 State Street.

Ticketed: $10 adults; students & children free. Buy tickets here or at the door.

The winners are:

  • Violinist Shing Fung (Biffa) Kwok, a doctoral student of Prof. David Perry and recipient of a Collins Fellowship. He will perform Tzigane by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
  • Violinist Matthew Lee, an undergraduate senior who studies with Prof. Soh-Hyun Altino. He will perform the cadenza from the Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, opus 77 of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).
  • Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, a master’s student of Prof. John Aley. He’ll perform the Trumpet Concerto in F Minor, Op. 18 by Oskar Böhme (1870-1938).
  • Soprano Anna Polum, who will sing “Amour, ranime mon courage,” written by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) for his opera adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Anna studies with voice professor James Doing.
  • Pianist Shuk-Ki Wong, to perform the first movement of the Piano Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Shuk-ki studies with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson.
  • Composition student Nathan Froebe (not pictured) is the winner of this year’s composer’s contest. More information coming soon.
L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Photograph by Hannah Olson.
L-R: Shuk-Ki Wong; Matthew Lee; Anna Polum; Matthew Onstad; Biffa Kwok. Photograph by Hannah Olson.

A native of Hong Kong, Biffa Kwok began his violin lessons at the age of ten, studying with Chu Tong Lo. In 2004, Kwok entered the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor of music degree in violin performance. Kwok also holds a master’s degree in violin performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Mikhail Kopelman, former leader of the Borodin and Tokyo String Quartets.

Kwok has received many awards, including the ExxonMobil Scholarship, Chan Ho Choi Enchanting Music Scholarship during his studies at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts; the Eastman Graduate Assistantship during his master program at the Eastman School of Music, and the James R. Smith Orchestral Leadership award during his studies at the Mead Witter School of Music.

Kwok has collaborated with many artists such as Trevor Pinnock, Uroš Lajovic, Perry So, Kokman Liu, Neil Varon, Brad Lubman, Zhu Dan, Nobuko Imai, and John Demain. A strong advocate of chamber music, Kwok actively participated in many chamber performances, including masterclasses with the Chilingirian; the Endellion; the Penderecki; the Ying, and the Dover string quartets. Kwok also actively performed in orchestral performances including participation in the Academy (Hong Kong) Symphony Orchestra; Eastman Philharmonia; Eastman Graduate Chamber Orchestra; Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes (Elmira, NY), the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra, and the Madison Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of Sound Out Loud, an ensemble based in Madison that specializes in performing contemporary music.

At UW, Kwok studies violin performance and arts administration. The ten-minute work he will perform, “Tzigane” by Maurice Ravel, is a Hungarian-styled rhapsody written in the early 1920s and first played by the Hungarian-English violinist Jelly d’Aranyi—a great-niece of the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim— in 1924. The name “Tzigane” is derived from the generic European term for gypsy, and it shows Ravel’s interest in violin showmanship in the manner of Paganini and Sarasota.

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Violinist Matthew Lee is a Madison native and former member of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra is is majoring in music performance and biology. Matthew began playing the violin at age 6 and studied with Hiram Pearcy for eleven years prior to entering college. He performed with WYSO orchestras for eight years, serving as concertmaster for the Youth Orchestra from 2011-12, including during their Eastern European Tour in 2012. He was a winner of the Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition in 2013, received honorable mentions in the Madison Symphony Orchestra Bolz concerto competition. At UW-Madison, his teachers have included Eugene Purdue and Prof. Altino.

“I chose this piece because I love Shostakovich’s work in general,” says Matthew. “His violin concerto is significant because it was written during a time when Shostakovich was scrutinized carefully by the Soviet government, in a time of increased arrests of people who wrote in an anti-Soviet manner. The violin concerto was therefore hidden from the public until after Stalin’s death. I love the whole concerto, but the cadenza and fourth movement stand out because of the desolate, barren quality of the cadenza transitioning into the exaggerated, frenzied movement of the burlesque.”

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Trumpeter Matthew Onstad, who hails from Beaver Dam, is pursuing a master’s degree in trumpet performance, studying with Prof. John Aley. He is a member of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and recently won the post of principal trumpet with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, where he holds the Francis Neiswanger Memorial Principal Trumpet chair. Aside from his duties with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, Matthew has been a member of the 132nd US Army National Guard Band since 2012, and has performed with the Madison and Oshkosh Symphony Orchestras. Matthew received his bachelor’s of music degree at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he studied with Marty Robinson and Robert Levy.

“The Böhme is one of the very few well-known trumpet concerti that was written in the Romantic era of music,” Matt says.”Although it is not a ‘standard’ in the trumpet repertoire, it certainly deserves the title, with all of the different colors it offers to the audience. It’s outer movements demonstrate virtuosic and acrobatic technique, while the inner movement possesses such beauty and sensitivity, thus making it one of my favorite pieces of music to perform.”

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Soprano Anna Polum is a native of Kodiak, Alaska, and is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance, studying with Prof. James Doing. She holds degrees in music education and voice performance from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Anna has won or placed in competitions offered by the National Organization of Teachers of Singing in both Alaska and Wisconsin. Recently, she sang Contessa Almaviva in University Opera’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro, and next spring will sing Miss Jessel in University Opera’s production of The Turn of the Screw. For the 2016-2017 season, Anna is the soprano studio artist for Madison Opera and covered the roles of Juliet in the company’s performances of Romeo and Juliet; Chan Parker in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird; and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). She will also sing the role of Papagena in the same production of Die Zauberflöte.

Gounod’s operatic adaption of Romeo & Juliet premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. While Gounod is now better known for Faust, Romeo & Juliet was a bigger success at its premiere, and has stayed in the repertoire for 150 years due to its beautiful music, genuine passion mingled with wit, and exciting fight scenes.

“I covered Juliet with Madison Opera this past November, so this role is fresh for me,” Anna says. “The setting is quite dramatic, especially in the middle recitative section, where Juliet envisions Tybalt’s ghost coming for her and Romeo. Between her fear of losing Romeo and her love for Romeo, she decides to take the poison that Friar Lawrence gives her, claiming ‘je bois a toi!,’ meaning ‘I drink to thee (meaning Romeo).’ I love the dramatic flair to this piece, especially since the rest of the opera is quite mellow, flowing in and out of love duets and party scenes.”

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Hong Kong native Shuk-Ki Wong is a doctoral pianist who studies piano performance and pedagogy with Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. She was a winner of the 31st Annual Beethoven Piano Competition at UW-Madison as well as the Exhibition Award from Trinity College London, and has appeared as soloist at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong City Hall and Verbrugghen Hall in Australia. During her studies, Shuk-Ki was invited to perform at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival and the Asia-Pacific Music Summit, and she has participated in master classes with Colin Stone, Sa Chen, Stephen Savage, Murray McLachlan and Jack Winerock. Shuk-Ki is also on the piano faculty at the School of Professional and Continuing Education in Madison Technical College, where she teaches students with diverse interests and abilities.

Shuk-Ki obtained her bachelor of music degree and diploma of music from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts with the support of the First Initiative Foundation Music Scholarship and Grantham Scholarship. She subsequently received the Molly McAulay Memorial Scholarship to fully support her graduate studies at the University of Sydney, Australia, under the tutelage of Mr. Clemens Leske.

“The brightness, energy, and the blend of ‘light-hearted and brilliant’ qualities and jazz music in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major have drawn my interest, and I am excited to perform this masterpiece with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra,” she says.

The benefits of a double major; Musicians Health Symposium; Brass Fest III recap; November guest artists

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
October 18, 2016

Music + Athletic Training double major a “huge opportunity” for SOM student

Robert Medina is now a graduate, but his UW-Madison legacy will live on in a new video that highlights his choice to major in both jazz trumpet and athletic training. “I saw this huge opportunity,” says Robert Medina. “I’ve been able to switch around the order in which I take classes to accommodate the athletic training program.”  There are jobs for people with such skills, says Andrew P. Winterstein, athletic training program director. “There’s athletic trainers now who work with Cirque du Soleil, with ballet companies, touring Broadway shows.”  Click to watch video.


Musicians Health Symposium will offer insight into common health disorders faced by musicians

On Friday, October 21, the School of Music will present a Musicians Health Symposium featuring a panel of doctors and therapists experienced in many kinds of common ailments faced by musicians. These include performance anxiety, disorders involving hearing, movement, and voice, and much more. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to attend, and the public is welcome. 3650 Humanities, 12-4:45 PM. Learn more at this link.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/musicians-health-symposium/


Upcoming guest artists at the School of Music in November – Free and Open to the Public

Steven Ebel, a tenor who discovered his vocal talents at UW-Madison and followed them with a successful international singing and composing career, will offer master classes and a concert on November 14, 15 and 16. He’ll teach classes on stage fright and breathing strategies, and offer lessons.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/steven-ebel-tenorcomposer/

Laurie Smukler, a violinist and teacher at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and the Conservatory of Music at Bard College, will visit on November 18 and 19 for a series of master classes and a concert with Victor Asuncion, piano and UW-Madison Professor Soh-Hyun Altino, violin. The program will include Prokofiev’s Sonata for two violins, Op. 56; Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending; and Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108.
http://www.music.wisc.edu/event/distinguished-guest-artist-residency-laurie-smukler-violin-free-event/
Smukler’s 2015 master class at Juilliard was a hit.  Read about it here.


Brass Fest III popular with high school students, audience

High school students from twelve area schools were welcomed to the stage of Mills Hall for our third Brass Fest, where they performed a beautiful rendition of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon duodecimi toni, written in 1597. The schools represented included Madison West High School; Madison East High School; Middleton High School; Kromrey Middle School; Edgewood  High School; Pewaukee High School; Mount Horeb High School; Clark Street Community School; Sun Prairie High School; St. Ambrose School; Cedarburg High School; Madison Memorial High School; and a homeschooled student.

The two days of Brass Fest III featured the acclaimed Stockholm Chamber Brass (in its first-ever tour of the States), along with the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and advanced college musicians. The first concert featured Stockholm Chamber Brass (read this review by local blogger and critic Greg Hettsmanberger) and the second night offered the full complement of musicians performing works by Brian Balmages, Dmitri Shostakovich, Gustav Mahler, and Anthony Di Lorenzo, among others.

Comments from high schoolers ranged from “it made me more aware of higher level playing” to “it helped us grow as musicians.”

See more photographs from Brass Fest III at this link:
http://www.music.wisc.edu/brass-fest-iii-with-stockholm-chamber-brass/

Hear the music of Brass Fest on our SoundCloud site. First up: The Gabrieli. Click here if graphic fails to load.

Limited edition T-shirts still available, only $3.00! Send an email to the editor with your request. frontofshirt


New webpages on our site

Music master classes: a page listing master classes at the School of Music. Master classes are open to the public and provide insight for performers and audience members alike.

Meet our Students
Emily Borley, a senior double majoring in literature and music education, tells about her journey at the School of Music, including an unexpected tragedy early in her final year.


Alumni News:

Christian Elser, William Wielgus


The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

A Groundbreaking Weekend for the School of Music; Pro Arte announces a date with pianist Leon Fleisher

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 27, 2016

It will be a weekend of many firsts.

  • Here’s the “first first”: On October 28 from 4 to 5:30 PM, at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue, the School of Music will officially break ground on the new Hamel Music Center that will contain two performance halls, a rehearsal room, and state-of-the-art technology.  Long considered a pressing need, the Hamel Center is being financed entirely by private funds from Pamela and George Hamel, the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids, Paul Collins, and many other donors.  We welcome continued support! To read about the Hamel Center and learn more, see this link.

“We’re excited about wonderful opportunities these new spaces will provides for all our students as well as the larger Madison and Wisconsin community,” says Susan C. Cook, director of the school of music.  “It’s an exciting time for all of us and we’re grateful for the support of our generous donors .”

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Live music and refreshments will be served. The entire community is welcome to join the festivities!

  • The second “first” will be a concert that evening (Friday, Oct. 28) by UW-Madison’s Christopher Taylor, introducing his groundbreaking new piano, the “Hyperpiano.”  It will start in Mills Hall at 8 PM, and Taylor will be available afterwards for conversation with patrons. Read our news release about this piano; buy your tickets here.

Click here to see images of the “Hyperpiano” in development.

  • And for our third first, faculty bassoonist Marc Vallon has planned a special concert of groundbreaking new works of music from the 17th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
    breaking-ground-poster-goodWrites Prof. Vallon: “Composers of all periods have continually explored new musical territories, looked for new paths, and tried, through groundbreaking works, to launch new courses of musical expression. This program offers the public pieces that have, in their time, provided a starting point to new musical routes, just as the first stroke of a shovel is the birth of a new building and a new era.” The concert will include music by Michelangelo Rossi, Alexander Scriabin, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Helmut Lachenmann, and Morton Feldman.

The free concert is set for 7 PM on Saturday, October 29, in Mills Hall.


Just announced: Pianist Leon Fleisher to perform at Mills Hall with the Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet was presented with an offer it could not refuse: Legendary pianist Leon Fleisher was available to perform with them this fall. Were they interested?

Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher

The answer was yes. On Thursday, October 6 at noon in Mills Hall, Fleisher will perform Brahms’ F minor Piano Quintet with the Pro Arte Quartet. The concert is free.

“You can’t see music as it passes through the air.  You can’t grasp it and hold on to it.  You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it.  But it has a most powerful effect on most people.  And that is a wondrous thing to contemplate.”

As a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, pianist Leon Fleisher was recognized as a “consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art.” Read his full biography.


Wondering what else is going on in the arts?

The Arts Institute’s fabulous website summarizes and promotes everything arts-related on the UW-Madison Campus. It offers a link to buy tickets and even offers a special ticketing deal called the “campus arts card.” We often don’t admit it, but there is more to see and hear than just music! There’s dance, theater, art, academic research and discussions, film… Check it out!
http://arts.wisc.edu/

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The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


You received this newsletter because you either signed up at join-somnews@lists.wisc.edu or directly at this blog. You can also follow us on our very active Facebook page and hear our music on our SoundCloud page.

Christopher Taylor to Debut New Piano

From the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 13, 2016

In a marriage of the Baroque and the modern, celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor will debut his much-anticipated new electronic double-keyboard piano this October 28, performing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”

The “Variations” is an 80-minute work once dubbed a “Rubik’s Cube of invention and architecture” that Bach wrote for a double-keyboard harpsichord.

Not by coincidence, Taylor will play Bach’s “Rubik’s cube” on a brand-new piano that could be described in much the same way.

Named the “Hyperpiano” by Taylor, it is actually three instruments – two of them ordinary concert grands, the third a special double-keyboard console designed by Taylor – connected by a riot of sensors and wires, with a mechanism that feels nearly normal for the performer but offers sonic possibilities that are unique.

Click here to view images of the “Hyperpiano” in development at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery “fab lab”

Taylor developed the piano over several years in a laboratory at the Morgridge Institutes for Research, assisted by many faculty and technicians who trained him to machine new parts using computers and guided him as he designed 60-odd circuit boards that make the instrument run. In addition, Taylor wrote several thousand lines of computer code that manage sensing and communications. In 2014, Taylor received United States patent # 8,664,497 B2 for the “Hyperpiano.”

Taylor entering the "fab lab" at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
Taylor entering the “fab lab” at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

His inspiration to develop it came from another unusual instrument that he inherited shortly after coming to UW-Madison in 2000, a double-keyboard piano made by Steinway in 1929.

Johann Sebastian Bach was known as a composer who welcomed new concepts in musical instruments. Accordingly, Taylor says, Bach designed the Goldberg Variations for the most deluxe instrument of his day, a double-keyboard harpsichord with a four-and-a-half octave range. Today, musicians often perform the work on a regular piano, but must generally “resort to tricks, compromises, fudging or outright studio chicanery to play all the notes as Bach wrote them,” as writer Tom Huizenga wrote in his blog, “Deceptive Cadence.”

The Hyperpiano will allow Taylor to overcome those obstacles. “I can recreate effects more like what Bach imagined, even while producing at the same time completely novel musical results,” Taylor says.

Taylor was a bronze medal winner in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, at which he performed the Goldberg Variations, among other works, on a standard single-keyboard Steinway. He also holds a degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

The concert will take place on Friday, October 28, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Humanities, 455 North Park Street. There will be one intermission.

Tickets for adults are $18; for students, $5. They may be purchased at Campus Arts Ticketing or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.

Patrons are advised to arrive early. Seating is general admission.

Mills Hall seats 700, of which 100 seats will be reserved on a first-call basis for music students, staff and faculty.


Christopher Taylor’s “Hyperpiano” Creates New Musical Possibilities

By Michael Muckian

“I would never be content as a pianist to play the same half-dozen pieces the same way year in and year out,” Taylor explained. “In piano literature, we have a vast array of great compositions, but we are always questing for new variety.”

Christopher Taylor grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where his father taught physics at the University of Colorado and his mother was a high school English instructor. The family owned a piano and Taylor initially was taught to play by a neighbor down the street.

The casual lessons didn’t last long; by age 10, the young pianist was playing Beethoven. By high school he was composing music.

While music was his first love, Taylor also proved gifted in mathematics, a field that seemed to offer a more stable career path. The young pianist chose to follow that thread, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard University in 1992.

During those same years, Taylor also studied piano under Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he began to attract the attention of the East Coast classical music community. In 1990, at the end of his sophomore year, Taylor won the University of Maryland’s William Kapell International Piano Competition, and later that same year made his performance debut in Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

However, Taylor’s watershed moment came in 1993 at the age of 23, when he earned a bronze medal at the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, for his performances of works by Beethoven, Boulez and Brahms, as well as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” now a standard part of his repertoire. For the young mathematician-slash-pianist, the competition win sealed his fate.

Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.
Christopher Taylor performing in Mills Hall, Feb. 2015. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

“I had sat on the fence between music and mathematics for many years, but the bronze medal made the decision for me,” Taylor said. But while his musical career had become ascendant, he kept up his math and computer studies. “I didn’t want to put the other parts of my brain on ice.”

The newly minted concert pianist, who would go on to earn critical accolades such as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), knew that his mathematics training went far to inform and support his music.

Both disciplines draw on similar mental skill sets, Taylor explained, noting that hours of piano practice can provide the necessary rigor to solve a complex mathematical proof.

“Music performance is more visceral than math, but when I’m performing I am definitely using the logical part of my brain,” he added. “Mentally understanding a piece of music is essential to surviving a performance.”


Following the Van Cliburn competition win, Taylor became a touring musician. His new wife wanted to pursue her doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, so the couple moved to Ann Arbor while Taylor spent weeks on the road playing several dozen concerts per year across the U.S. and in Europe.

Life on the road proved strenuous for the young pianist, who became known for his intense, sweat-soaked, highly physical performances. Eventually, Taylor decided he might want to teach. When the University of Wisconsin offered Taylor a faculty position in 2000, his family moved to Madison.

At UW-Madison, Taylor came across a prototype that would prove the foundation for his new invention. And he can credit a little known Hungarian composer for the introduction.

Emánuel Moór, who during his life composed five operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral works, is best remembered today as the inventor of the Moór Pianoforte, a double-keyboard instrument that attempted to replicate the benefits of the harpsichord and organ in the piano format. It boasted a two-tiered keyboard, but space within the cabinet allowed for only 76 keys on the top tier instead of the usual 88. The layout of the 164 keys allowed one hand to stretch across a range of over two octaves at once, creating a richer and fuller sound.

Watch a video of Taylor describing his plan for a new piano.

Moór was a professional colleague of composer Maurice Ravel and cellist Pablo Casals, both of whom championed his work, including his pianoforte. Despite such celebrity support, many musicians considered Moór’s instrument more of a novelty and found it difficult, if not impossible, to play.

European manufacturers produced about 60 pianofortes during the 1920s, including one made in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, by Steinway. Until very recently, that particular instrument occupied a corner of Taylor’s cramped office in the Mosse Humanities Building.

The Moór pianoforte found its way to UW-Madison after Danish pianist Gunnar Johansen became the university’s artist in residence in 1939. Enthralled with the strange instrument, Johansen lobbied university donors until they broke down and bought it for him on the condition that its ownership revert to the university upon the pianist’s death.

By the time Johansen died in 1991, interest in the pianoforte had waned. It lay in storage for 14 years until Taylor rediscovered it in 2005. He performed on the pianoforte in dozens of concerts across the country, eventually getting a feel for the instrument and gaining notoriety for his performances. In 2007, the New York Times interviewed Taylor and created a video about the piano. In 2010, while he was in Washington, D.C. for a performance, the Kennedy Center created its own version.

“It’s clever as a musical contrivance, but it’s a little unwieldy and feels strange under your fingers,” Taylor said, noting that corresponding keys on both keyboards end up striking the same string. “You have to work very hard to play the keys because of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that connects them with the hammers.”

Around 2009, having studied the levers, rods, and platforms lurking inside the Moór piano, Taylor decided there might be a better way, a way that would take advantage of 21st-century technology. He began to draw up blueprints, discussed his ideas with a number of experts, and eventually received a grant from the UW Arts Institute to pursue them further. In early 2012 he approached George Petry, a prototyping manager at the Morgridge Institute for Research, to talk about his idea, an idea that much later would be named the “Hyperpiano.” Petry thought Taylor was nuts.

“I thought Chris was crazy because I knew this was going to be so much work,” Petry said. “I have a lot of students coming in who have never built anything before who say they want to build a space shuttle. I thought this was Chris’s space shuttle.”

But Petry gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt, and also a corner in the Morgridge Institute’s Advanced Fabrication Laboratory – better known as the “fab lab” — inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building on University Avenue, a home where engineers and inventors collaborate to build prototypes of their ideas. And Petry started to teach Taylor how to use all the computer-operated machines.

Another important teacher was Giri Venkataramanan, a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as a high-level consultant to the project. “His motivation was sky-high and it sounded like he knew what he was doing,” Venkataramanan said.


At first blush, the Hyperpiano’s double-keyboard console – what Taylor calls the “input device” – looks like a contemporary upright piano that is thicker in girth than normal. It features a two-tiered keyboard with 176 keys total along with five pedals. Hidden inside the cabinet, behind the keys, are two sets of standard mass-produced piano hammers.

But that is where similarities to a regular piano end. There are no strings for these hammers to strike, and Taylor admits that their only function is to mimic the feel of playing a normal single-keyboard piano. In fact, in the absence of strings Taylor had to create special foam bars for the hammers to strike, designed to replicate an ordinary instrument’s behavior but create as little “banging” noise as possible.

“Even building a conventional piano that works is a very difficult process in itself,” says Robert Hohf, a professional piano technician who aided Taylor. “The keyboard orientation and the alignment of parts is unbelievably complicated.”

And with the Hyperpiano, the complications only increased.

Designing an instrument that contains twice the normal number of keys and twice as many hammers, aligning everything inside a single wooden frame, took a massive amount of re-engineering, Taylor says. Each of the 176 keys in the Hyperpiano has a unique shape that had to be specially carved by a router, which got its directions from multiple computer programs written by Taylor.

To actually make music, the double-keyboard console contains electronic sensors that read the movement of the keys during each stroke, then send coded electronic impulses via wires to two player-piano mechanisms called “Vorsetzers.” (First developed in the early twentieth century, Vorsetzers were mechanical key-pressing contraptions that could be attached to the keyboards of ordinary pianos.) The Vorsetzers are affixed to any pair of pianos one has handy, which, in theory, could be some distance away. Thus the motions of the pianist’s fingers on one part of the stage are transmitted instantaneously to produce music emanating from two other parts of the stage.


Taylor plays Prokofiev

Timing everything so that the music would sound like music—not a jangle of disparate noises – was another hurdle Taylor had to surmount. Taylor’s new technology solves that problem: it senses a fraction of a millimeter of motion as soon as a key is pressed. The sensors immediately send the data to the Vorsetzers, which move the corresponding key the same amount at exactly the same time.

“It involved a lot of software jujitsu to make this happen,” he said. But in the end, “everything is choreographed to deliver the final notes in real time,” he explained.


The Hyperpiano could afford some novel performance opportunities, says Taylor: “For starters, it will be capable of everything the Moór piano can produce: far-flung chords beyond the grasp of ordinary human hands on ordinary pianos, intricate counterpoint where the hands mingle in the same register (effects that would cause impossible traffic jams on a single keyboard), and, with the aid of an extra fourth pedal, sonorities reinforced by extra tones one octave higher than the keys the pianist is actually pressing.

“But it will offer customized behaviors beyond these,” he continues. “The ability to reinforce the pianist’s keypresses with any number of additional notes, so that the motion of a single finger produces an elaborate harmony; novel hybrid sonorities obtained by combining different pedaling patterns on the two subsidiary pianos; repeated notes faster than what ordinary pianos permit; and the interesting spatial effects that will result when the two subsidiary pianos get rolled to different parts of the stage.”

Taylor is eager to produce new arrangements and compositions that take advantage of these musical novelties. “I’m in discussions with a number of composers about the possibility of their contributing to a new chapter in the piano literature,” he says.

With the end of the project in sight, the pianist says he’s pleased with the outcome of his years of work, even as he adjusts to new variations in sound and performance.

“I’m delighted to find that the final product is matching my initial vision pretty closely,” Taylor says. “There is still some tweaking that needs to take place — software refinements mostly — in order to ensure that as a pianist I have the level of musical control that I need. This work may prove challenging, but as in the past I am very determined to overcome the remaining obstacles.”

Venkataramanan agrees and also is thinking ahead to the piano’s next iteration.

Scientists, unfortunately, are never satisfied.

“As a problem-solving exercise, this has been pretty impressive,” the engineering professor says. “But he still runs wires between his keyboards. The next phase would be to do this on a wireless basis and using Cloud technology.”

 

Mr. Taylor is eager to acknowledge the invaluable help he received from a large number of collaborators over the past five years. Apart from piano technician Robert Hohf, machinist George Petry, and EE Professor Giri Venkataramanan, these individuals include: Rock Mackie and Kevin Eliceiri, the former and current directors of the Morgridge Institute for Research, who were amazingly welcoming hosts during his four-plus years in the Fab Lab; UW-Madison piano technician Baoli Liu; Justin Anderson at WARF and Callie Bell of Bell Manning LLC, who shepherded the patent application process; Kevin Earley, who built the wooden housing for the input console; Convenience Electronics of Madison (in particular Betsy Vanden Wymelenberg), who custom assembled the instrument’s many wires and cables; Calvin Cherry, Nate Hess, Brian Urso, and Ryan Solberg, whom Taylor employed to solder together circuit boards and who contributed greatly to his EE education; UW-Madison’s Bill Sethares, along with Terence O’Laughlin and Alberto Rodriguez of Madison College, who put Taylor in contact with the aforementioned companies and employees; and the UW Arts Institute, former chancellor John Wiley, and Paul Collins, who provided moral as well as financial support.

 

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