UW-Madison alumni form 3/4 of new strings education quartet in Door County
Executive director also an alumna
The first time UW-Madison’s Hunt Quartet played in Door County for Midsummer’s Music, a Door County summer chamber music festival, it was in response to an emergency.
The renowned Pro Arte Quartet had long been booked to play, but the quartet had to cancel. Midsummer’s artistic director James Berkenstock scrambled to fill the void.
David Perry, violinist with the Pro Arte, had a solution: Hire the Hunt, the graduate string quartet at UW-Madison. “David said that this particular configuration of the Hunt Quartet was superb,” says Berkenstock. “He said they already had a program and would do a great job.”
Classical pianist Christopher Taylor continues his Liszt/Beethoven cycle
Franz Liszt was a superstar pianist. He was a virtuoso who invented the orchestral tone poem, taught 400 students for free, conducted and composed. Musicologist Alan Walker wrote three volumes about Liszt, shedding light on all of Liszt’s work but especially his genius for transcription. Writes Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times, “The best of these works are much more than virtuosic stunts. Liszt’s piano transcriptions of the nine Beethoven symphonies are works of genius. Vladimir Horowitz, in a 1988 interview, told me that he deeply regretted never having played Liszt’s arrangements of the Beethoven symphonies in public.”
Few pianists have tackled all nine Beethoven transcriptions. Christopher Tayloris one. On Saturday, February 9, at 8:00 PM in Mills Hall, Taylor will perform his sixth transcription – Beethoven’s 8th Symphony. Saturday’s concert will also include six preludes by Nikolai Kapustin, a whose works span both classical and jazz, and the Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 (“Der Wanderer”) of Franz Schubert.
In 2020, Christopher Taylor will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with performances of the Franz Liszt transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies, in Madison and beyond. In Boston, Taylor will perform the entire set in five concerts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Tickets for Taylor’s Feb. 9 concert ($17 adults, $7 children) may be purchased online or in person.
February 2 @ 8:00 pm, Mills Concert Hall, 455 N. Park St.
Program: String Quartet D Major, Op. 50 No. 6 “The Frog”(1796) – Franz Joseph Haydn String Quartet No. 9 in Eb Major, Op. 117 (1964) – Dmitri Shostakovich String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41 No. 3 (1842) – Robert Schumann
“Schubertiade” charms audience once again
Isthmus’s John Barker wrote, “A carefully prepared program and a multi-page handout with the full German song texts, with English translations, allowed the audience to become fully immersed in the music.
Jazz Composers Group and Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble February 1 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm Tandem Press, 1743 Commercial Avenue
Wingra Wind Quintet in Richland Center February 3 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 26625 Crestview Dr Richland Center, WI Members of the Wingra Wind Quintet in concert, presented by the Richland Concert Association at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Richland Center.
UW Jazz Orchestra & the Billy Childs Quartet February 9 @ 8:00 pm Memorial Union-Shannon Hall, 800 Langdon Street WI Jazz pianist Billy Childs, the 2018 Grammy Award winner for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, will join the UW Jazz Orchestra on stage for an exciting opening act prior to his appearance with the Billy Childs Quartet.
UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, with composer Augusta Read Thomas February 14 @ 7:30 pm Mills Concert Hall. With Chad Hutchinson, conductor, and graduate conductors Michael Dolan and Ji Hyun Yim. Program: Jean Sibelius- Valse Triste; Augusta Read Thomas- Of Paradise and Light; Augusta Read Thomas- Prayer and Celebration; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart- Symphony No. 39 in Eb. Major, K. 543. 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, Music Hall.
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.
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 newHamel 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 .”
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. Writes 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?
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/
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.
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.
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.”
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 Ticketingor 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.
“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.
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.
Jessica Johnson holds out hope for pianists with small hands
How big are your hands? If you aspire to be a professional pianist, that’s an important question. On average, women have smaller hands than men, and are frequently stymied when trying to stretch their fingers to reach the larger octaves written into many major concertos, such as those by Liszt and Rachmaninoff. That simple fact bears on another simple fact: There are fewer women in the top echelons of professional concert pianists. Injuries are also common.
On Sat., Feb. 20, Jessica Johnson, professor of piano and piano pedagogy, will hold a full day of all-free events to demonstrate what has been working for her: The adoption of a specially sized piano that is 7/8 of normal size. Made by Steinbuhler & Co., one of these is now owned by the School of Music, and Prof. Johnson has found that playing it has been a “life-changing” experience.
Join us on Feb. 20 at 2:30 for a workshop, master class, hands-on demonstrations, and concert, all featuring the Steinbuhler DS 5.5 7/8 piano. Learn more here. And watch for an article about this revolutionary new approach in an upcoming story by Gayle Worland, in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Trumpeter & Cuban Music Expert Mike Davison to perform with the UW Jazz Orchestra
Master class: Mon Feb 22, Mills Hall; Concert: Weds., Feb. 24, 7:30 PM, Music Hall. Read more here.
Even after a semester with Juan de Marcos, we’re still feeding on Cuban music! This month, we’re bringing Mike Davison (DMA, trumpet performance 1987) to campus from the University of Richmond, where he teaches and performs. He’ll join the UW Jazz Orchestra, the Waunakee High School Jazz Ensemble I and the UW Latin Jazz Ensemble in an evening of rousing Caribbean tunes. Davison’s bio includes concerts around the world, four recorded jazz CDs, and performances with well-known singers, musicians, and even for a pope.
UW Wind Ensemble travels to Verona and west Madison for concerts
Find the UW Wind Ensemble in your corner of Dane County! Last December, the Wind Ensemble made an appearance at the Sun Prairie High School and will continue its out of town concerts this spring. Find them at Verona High School on Feb. 19, at Oakwood Village – West (Mineral Point Road) on March 31, and of course at the School of Music as well (Feb. 20). Both February concerts will feature Tom Curry, adjunct professor of tuba, in a work titled “Heavy Weather,” by the composer Jess Turner.
Summer Music Clinic registration now underway
Registration is open through May 2 for UW-Madison’s legendary Summer Music Clinic, which offers dozens of classes in all kinds of musical skills for kids completing grades 6-8 (junior session) and 9-12 (senior session). For one week, students live in UW dorms and attend classes that they choose from a lengthy list, including band, orchestra and choir; sight-singing; jazz improvisation; opera; swing dance; yoga; and even specialized classes on subjects ranging from the music of film composer John Williams to Stephen Sondheim to rock’n roll. Instructors are all highly skilled; many are university professors or other working professionals. Taste the fun by visiting SMC’s Facebook page! For more information, email email@example.com.
Below: Summer Music Clinic photographs by Michael R. Anderson.
UW-MADISON PERCUSSION PROGRAM CELEBRATES 50 YEARS WITH A MARCH 20 CONCERT AND TRIP TO CHINA
“Fifty years is not a long time in the world of classical music, but it’s a very long time in the world of formal percussion studies. In the 1960s and before, the very notion of teaching percussion beyond the basic orchestral instruments caused music educators to simply shake their heads in disbelief.” So what happened? Read the full story on our main website here.
The University of Wisconsin Madison World Percussion Ensemble performs the Olodum classic A Visa La (May 2013). The arrangement was created by Nininho and A. Di Sanza.
HEAR THE MUSIC OF BRITISH COMPOSER CECILIA McDOWALL AND MEET THE COMPOSER, TOO
Heard any new choral music lately? You’ll get your chance this week when Cecilia McDowall, winner of the 2014 British Composer Award for her choral work, Night Flight, comes to Madison.
Please note: On Wednesday the 18th at noon, McDowall will be featured live on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Midday show with host Norman Gilliland (88.7 FM). On Thursday on WORT Radio (89.9 FM), host Rich Samuels plans a half-hour special on McDowall that he pre-recorded with organizer John Aley. At 7:15 AM.
Thursday, noon, Mills Hall: Colloquium with the composer. How does she impart those whispery Antarctic sounds into her music? Come to ask and find out how!
Friday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: We’ll feast on McDowall’s choral and instrumental music for ensembles and soloists, including her work about the ill-fated expedition of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Selected faculty and student performers will include pianist Christopher Taylor, tenor James Doing, the UW Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn. Mike Duvernois of UW-Madison’s IceCube Antarctic research project will update us on the state of polar research today (hint: they don’t need sled dogs anymore). Tickets sold at the Memorial Union Box office and in Mills on day of show. Adults $20, all-age students free. http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html
Saturday, 8 PM, Mills Hall: A concert devoted to smaller ensembles, including a trio with violinist Eleanor Bartsch, cellist Kyle Price, and pianist SeungWha Baek. They’ll perform “The Colour of Blossoms,” a meditation by McDowall after a 13th century Japanese story. Free concert. Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/cecilia-mcdowall/colour-of-blossoms
Sunday, 9:15 and 10:30 AM, Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Avenue. Forum (9:15) and Church Service (10:30) featuring McDowall’s music, with the composer present.
WINNERS OF SHAIN WOODWIND-PIANO DUO COMPETITION ANNOUNCED
Our 2015 winners are Kai-Ju Ho, clarinet and SeungWha Baek, piano, and Iva Ugrcic, flute and Thomas Kasdorf, piano. Pedro Garcia, clarinet and Chan Mi Jean, piano, received honorable mention.
The competition is sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain. The winners will perform this Sunday, Feb. 22, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall. A reception will follow.
BENEFIT FOR STRICKEN TROMBONIST BRITTANY SPERBERG: MARCH 18
The Dairyland Jazz Band, with Sperberg on trombone, plays Ory’s Creole Trombone.
Undergraduate trombonist Brittany Sperberg, who performed in the UW’s Dairyland Jazz Band and many other ensembles, is now having serious medical problems and has withdrawn from school. Sperberg was featured in this blog in the fall of 2013. Her teacher, trombonist Mark Hetzler, has organized a benefit concert on Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 PM to raise donations to assist her family with unmet expenses. Please join us to help wish Brittany a speedy recovery! Donations may also be made at YouCaring.org. Learn much more at our website: http://www.music.wisc.edu/2015/02/07/sperberg_benefit/
STELLAR SINGING EXPECTED AT UNIVERSITY OPERA’S NEXT SHOW: MOZART’S THE MAGIC FLUTE
University costumers are already busy sewing Victorian bustle skirts and the classic South Asian attire known as the shalwar kameez for next month’s University Opera production of The Magic Flute. It’s all a product of visiting opera director David Ronis‘s imagined East-west setting for the show. Read the complete news release on our website.
New this spring: four performances, not just three, allowing for even double casting of all lead roles. The show dates are Friday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
SCHOOL OF MUSIC PHOTO EXHIBIT STARTS MARCH 1, LOWELL CENTER
Our friendly helpful photographer Mike Anderson has enlarged and framed about 25 images of student musicians to be placed on display in the Lowell Center Gallery, 610 Langdon Street. The exhibit runs from March 1 to April 30, and there will be a small reception on March 8. Read more here.
Below are a few of Mike’s images taken at our concerto winners concert (“Symphony Showcase”) that was held on February 8. (More information here.) Please check back this fall for our next winners recital date, and join us; it is always a joyous event!
Conductor James Smith and Keisuke Yamamoto.
Ivana Ugrcic and Stephanie Jutt, professor of flute.
Susan C. Cook, director of the UW-Madison School of Music.
Kyle Knox, graduate assistant conductor.
Jason Kutz, with the UW Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Smith.
Kyle Knox and composer competition winner, Adam Betz.
AWARD-WINNING CHORAL COMPOSER TO VISIT UW-MADISON Feb. 19-21
British composer Cecilia McDowall, a recent winner of the British Composer Award for her work, Night Flight, for choir and solo cello, will jump the pond in late February for a three-day residency at the School of Music. The residency–McDowall’s first in the U.S.– will include two concerts, one featuring the U.S. premiere of her work, Seventy Degrees Below Zero, commissioned in 2012 to honor the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott.
The classical magazine Gramophone describes McDowall as having “a piquant musical vocabulary, underpinned by moments of pure lyricism.” 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.
COLLOQUIUM Thursday Feb. 19, noon, Mills Hall: Meet the composer! McDowall will describes how she creates music based on real or imagined events. Free.
CONCERT Friday Feb. 20, 8PM, Mills Hall: Featuring the U.S. premiere of Seventy Degrees Below Zero. With UW Madrigal Singers and Concert Choir (Bruce Gladstone, conductor) and a faculty/student chamber orchestra conducted by James Smith. Michael DuVernois of the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center will offer a slideshow describing the past and the present in polar research. Free reception to follow!
Tickets: $20 adults, free for students. Buy online (click link) ; in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door.
CONCERT Saturday, Feb 21, 8 PM, Mills Hall: The Chamber Music of Cecilia McDowall. Free.
UW WIND ENSEMBLE TO PERFORM AT CARNEGIE HALL IN MARCH-Catch their send-off concert on Feb. 24
The Wind Ensemble and its conductor, Scott Teeple, plans a trip too, not across the ocean but across half the country: a performance on March 9 at Carnegie Hall. You can hear them perform prior to their New York concert on Feb. 24, a ticketed fundraiser and preview concert, will include works by Vaughan Williams, Kathryn Salfelder, Percy Grainger, and others. Tickets: $10 adults, free for students. Buy online (click link); in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door. Read more here.
Many thanks to Lau and Bea Christenson and the UW-Madison School of Music for supporting this trip.
DOCTORAL TROMBONIST COMMISSIONS AND PERFORMS A JOHN STEVENS PREMIERE
How do new classical works get funded these days? Sometimes, it’s the product of “consortia,” a group of universities and orchestras interested in new works. Such is the case with the Kleinhammer Sonata for bass trombone, named for the former bass trombonist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and newly written by former tuba professor and composer John Stevens. As part of his doctoral dissertation, Alan Carr, a trombonist in the studio of Prof. Mark Hetzler, secured underwriting from UW-Madison and many others, including the Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit symphonies and the Metropolitan Opera. The new sonata will be part of a new CD that features works for bass trombone, none previously recorded. Come hear Carr will perform the new sonata on March 3 in Mills Hall at 7:30 PM, along with pianist Vincent Fuh. Composer John Stevens is expected to attend.Read more here.
ALUMNA SOPRANO EMILY BIRSAN PROFILED IN CLASSICAL SINGER MAGAZINE
“[UW provided] a small hall and a safe environment,” Emily Birsan says of her experience at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “But that situation really boosted my confidence that I could take on these pretty big leading ladies and make them my own.” Birsan is featured on the front cover of February’s Classical Singer magazine. Read the full article here.
MUSICOLOGY DISSERTATOR RECEIVES OPERA AWARD
Robert Torre, a PhD candidate in musicology studying with Professor Jeanne Swack, recently received the Leland Fox Scholarly Paper Award from the National Opera Association for his essay “Cultural Translatio and Arne’s Artaxerxes (1762).” The paper is part of a broader project that examines the role of translation in the composition and reception of Italian opera in eighteenth-century London. Robert is currently visiting faculty at Emory University in Atlanta.
HOMAGE TO RAMEAU CONTINUES THIS SPRING
Prof. Charles Dill‘s massive effort to pull together a series of events to commemorate the work of Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau will continue this spring, with events on Feb. 5 (Chazen Museum); March 11 (Chemistry Building–yes, you read that right); April 18 (Morphy Hall) and April 17 & 18 (performance of Pygmalion by the Madison Bach Musicians, at the First Unitarian Society Church). Why in Chemistry, you ask? Because chemistry professor Rod Schreiner knows a bit about the principles of string vibration and sound propagation that influenced Rameau. Even today, 250 years after his death, Rameau’s work is considered seminal, so please join us to learn more! Full information can be found here: http://www.music.wisc.edu/rameau/ All events are free.
WISCONSIN BRASS QUINTET COMING TO A TOWN NEAR YOU
The Wisconsin Brass Quintet will travel around Wisconsin this spring with an all-new program of works written or arranged for brass, including compositions by Cecilia McDowall (who will travel from England in late February for our residency), Malcolm Arnold, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Vladimir Cosma, and William Mathias. Towns will include Ashland, Richland Center, Kohler, and others. Check this website to find more locations and times.
HEAR OUR CONCERTO WINNERS SOLO WITH ORCHESTRA THIS WEEKEND: SUNDAY, FEB. 8: 7 PM, MILLS HALL
Grab a spot this Sunday for our annual “Symphony Showcase” concert featuring our concerto competition winners. Tickets are $10.00 for adults, free to students, and include a reception in Mills lobby immediately following. This event is always joyous; we encourage all to attend! Read more here:http://www.music.wisc.edu/events/symphony-showcase/
RONIS AND TEAM WIN PRIZE AT NATIONAL OPERA ASSOCIATION
We congratulate visiting director of opera David Ronis, whose Queens College-CUNY production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites” recently won third place in Division 4 of the 2013-14 National Opera Association’s Production Competition. Ronis and his team have won twice before, in 2009 and 2011.
With that in mind, you won’t want to miss this spring’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, also directed by Ronis. There will be four shows, one more than the usual number: March 13 at 7:30pm; March 14 at 7:30pm; March 15 at 3:00pm; and March 17 at 7:30pm. Buy tickets online (click link) or in person at the Memorial Union box office or at the door. More info to come! http://www.music.wisc.edu/opera/
From the Gallery: Scenes from two recent concerts at the School of Music. All photographs by Michael R. Anderson.
Schubertiade, Jan. 30
Schubertiade, Jan. 30. Singers Jennifer D’Agostino and Daniel O’Dea.
Schubertiade, Jan. 30. Pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes, husband and wife.
Schubertiade, Jan. 30
Schubertiade, Jan. 30. Pianist Martha Fischer, and singers Daniel O’Dea, Michael Roemer and Jennifer D’Agostino.
Schubertiade, Jan. 30. Violinist Leslie Shank; pianists Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes; and cellist Norman Fischer.
We thank you so much for all your support and enthusiasm in 2014 and look forward to 2015 — a year that will include a major groundbreaking for a new music hall! We hope you are just as excited as we, and that you will join us this spring for one of our many inspiring concerts.
NEW MUSIC BUILDING NAMED AFTER PAM AND GEORGE HAMEL
In early December, UW-Madison announced that the new music performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue will be named in honor of Pamela Hamel and her husband, UW-Madison alumnus George Hamel (BA’80, Communication Arts). Pamela is a member of the School’s Board of Visitors. Read the full story here.
We thank the Hamels for their generosity! If you would like to join them with a gift of your own, you may do so at this website.
MEET JOHN WUNDERLIN: BACK IN SCHOOL AT 50
At the School of Music’s “Horn Choir” concert at the Chazen Museum of Art last month, one could easily discern John Wunderlin from the swarm of horn players on the stage.
He was the only one with gray hair.
Last fall, business owner Wunderlin, 50, returned for a master’s degree in horn, studying with Daniel Grabois, assistant professor of horn. We asked John to tell us what inspired him to study music after all these years. Read the interview here.
CONCERTO COMPETITION WINNERS IN CONCERT WITH UW SYMPHONY: FEB. 8
Five talented students are winners of our annual Concerto Competition and will perform with the UW Symphony Orchestra in our “Symphony Showcase” concert, Sunday, Feb. 8, in Mills Hall. The concert will begin at 7 pm and will conclude with a free reception. We hope you will join us for what is always a joyous and unique event! Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.
Our winners and the works they will perform are:
Jason Kutz, piano, a master’s candidate studying with collaborative pianist Martha Fischer. Kutz, who also performs and composes jazz music, is a native of Kiel, Wisconsin, and studied recording technology and piano at UW-Oshkosh. He will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.
Ivana Ugrcic, flute, a doctoral student and Collins Fellow studying with flutist Stephanie Jutt. A native of Serbia, Ugrcic has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over Europe, and received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from University of Belgrade School of Music. She will perform Francois Borne’s Fantasie Brillante (on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen).
Keisuke Yamamoto, violin, an undergraduate student of Pro Arte violinist David Perry, earning a double degree in music performance and microbiology. Keisuke, born in Japan but raised in Madison, received a tuition remission scholarship through UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, and also won honors in Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Competition, among others. He will perform Ernest Chausson’s Poème Op. 25.
Anna Whiteway, an undergraduate voice student, studying with Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting professor of voice. Whiteway is a recipient of a Stamps Family Charitable Foundation scholarship as well as the Harker Scholarship for opera. Whiteway, who was praised in 2013 for her singing in University Opera’s production of Ariodante, will star in the Magic Flute this spring. For this night’s performance, she will sing Charles Gounod’s Je veux vivre (Juliette’s Aria).
Our composition winner this year is graduate student Adam Betz, a Two Rivers native who wrote a work titled Obscuration. Betz received his undergraduate degree from UW-Oshkosh, where he was named Outstanding Senior Composer. He also holds a master’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis.
CATCH CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR IN HIS ONLY SOLO MADISON APPEARANCE- JAN. 23
Pianist Christopher Taylor will take the Mills stage on Friday, January 23, 8 pm, in his only solo Madison appearance this year. He will perform Johannes Brahms’ Sonata no. 3 in f minor, op. 5; William Bolcom’s Twelve Etudes; and Beethoven’s Symphony #6 as arranged by Franz Liszt. Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.
Last November, Taylor performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations at New York’s Metropolitan Museum on their historic double-keyboard Bösendorfer piano designed by Emáuel Moór. In Madison, Taylor not only performs and tours with the world’s only Steinway double-keyboard piano (owned by UW, and also designed by Moór) but holds a patent on a third double-keyboard piano, this one with electronic components.
The Wall Street Journal published a story about Taylor and the Met Museum’s unique piano. Read it here.
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: A SECOND “SCHUBERTIADE” WITH FISCHER & LUTES- JAN. 30
A Schubertiade is an intimate “house concert” featuring the songs (known as “lieder”) and chamber music of Franz Schubert. In the 19th century, Schubertiades became a popular form of informal entertainment among his friends and aficionados of his music, frequently with drink and food, and often with Schubert himself at the center. Nowadays, Schubertiades are often much larger multi-day affairs held in swank European locations.
Our Schubertiade, the brainchild of UW-Madison collaborative pianist Martha Fischer, will be presented on the Mills Hall stage festooned with chairs, rugs, and lamps. Join us! Friday, January 30, 8 pm, Mills Hall. Tickets for adults are $10.00 and will be available at the door or in advance at the Union Theater Box Office. Students are free. Ticket info here.
Performers will include Fischer; her husband, pianist Bill Lutes; her brother, cellist Norman Fischer of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music; singers Jennifer D’Agostino, Cheryl Bensman Rowe, Daniel O’Dea, Joshua Sanders, Michael Roemer and Paul Rowe; and violinist Leslie Shank. The program will include songs set to the poems of Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Mayrhofer, and will be capped by two Polonaises for piano duet, played by Fischer and Lutes.
GRADUATE COMPOSITION STUDENT WINS FIRST PRIZE IN COMPETITION
Congratulations to Sin Young Park, whose composition “Three Preludes for Piano” was recently selected as the winner of the 2015 Delta Omicron Triennial Composition Competition. Read more here.
GRADUATE FLUTIST ADVANCES TO FINAL ROUND OF ASTRAL ARTISTS COMPETITION
2014 concerto competition winner Mi Li Chang has advanced to the final round of the national Astral Artists Competition and will play in the final round on January 8 in Philadelphia. The mission of Astral Artists, which was founded in 1992, is to “discover the most promising classical musicians residing in the United States, assist their early professional career development, and present their world-class artistry to the community through concerts and engagement programs.” Congratulations and best wishes, Mi Li!
FACULTY TROMBONIST WINS $30,000 CREATIVE ARTS AWARD
And congratulations to Mark Hetzler, 2015 winner of the $30,000 UW-Madison Arts Institute Creative Arts Award, which recognizes and honors extraordinary artistic projects and endeavors of the highest quality carried out by tenured members of the UW-Madison arts faculty in the areas of Art, Communication Arts, Creative Writing, Dance, Environment, Textile and Design, Music Composition and Performance, and Theater and Drama.
DID YOU KNOW…that our new website has a page devoted just to PARKING?
We created a page just to make it a bit easier to visit the SOM. In a nutshell: Weekday parking is not free, but evening and weekend parking sometimes IS free and not that far away. It’s complicated, however, so your best bet is to click here and read!
(Editor’s note: For over six or seven years, the editor routinely visited the School of Music by car, attending concerts and WYSO rehearsals. She always paid for parking, but recently did some digging and learned that UW-Madison actually offers free parking at nights and on weekends. After realizing this, she sighed deeply at the thought of how much money she could have saved had she known…. but now she offers the same information to all our loyal readers as a reward for reading to the end of this newsletter post.)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
This fall, our alumni percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion put its own spin on a famous holiday tune while demonstrating the [somewhat variable] dance skills of its members. Thanks for the laugh, Clocks!