ALSO IN JANUARY: Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino and pianist Christopher Taylor team up for an afternoon of exquisite sonatas from Fauré and Corigliano. Sunday, January 22, 4 PM. Learn more here.
Join pianists Martha Fischer, Bill Lutes, and friends on the stage and seats of Mills Hall for January’s “Schubertiade,” an intimate homage to the music, loves and life of Romantic composer Franz Schubert.
The concert will take place Sunday, January 29, at a new time, 3:00 PM.
Fischer is a UW-Madison professor of collaborative piano and piano and Bill Lutes is emeritus artist-in-residence.
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 students, available online,at the Memorial Union Box Office, or at the door. The concert is sponsored by Madison resident Ann Boyer, an admirer of Franz Schubert’s music and the musical talents of Fischer and Lutes.
The evening will include a special guest, the much-acclaimed soprano and UW-Madison alumna, Emily Birsan. Among other works, she will sing Schubert’s Epistle to Josef von Spaun, D. 749 – a brilliant and humorous send-up of the Italian operatic style that was all the rage in Vienna during Schubert’s lifetime.
Other performers will include Mead-Witter School of Music faculty Mimmi Fulmer, soprano and Paul Rowe, baritone; School of Music alumni Daniel O’ Dea, tenor and Benjamin Schultz, baritone; and current graduate students Anna Polum, soprano, Rebecca Bechtel and Jessica Kasinski, mezzo sopranos, and Wesley Dunnagan, tenor.
Schubert was born on January 31, 1797, and lived only 31 years. In his day, his music was cherished, but mostly by his personal circle. UW-Madison’s “Schubertiade” extends that circle to include the entire seating chart in Mills Hall.
The theme for this year’s Schubertiade is “Circle of Friends,” says co-organizer Lutes.
He writes: “Moritz von Schwind, a important German painter of the 19th century, was a young man when he became part of the group that was present at the first Schubertiade — those social gatherings given over to charades, poetry reading, dancing and imbibing – but most particularly to the performance of Schubert’s music, often with the composer himself at the piano.
“These almost legendary occasions were immortalized by Schwind in his famous painting ‘A Schubert Evening at Josef von Spaun’s,’ created in 1868, when these glorious moments had become distant and cherished memories. Schubert is indeed at the piano, with the great baritone Johann Michael Vogel seated to the composer’s right. Depicted are many of the poets, artists, lawyers and civil servants, and close friends who first heard Schubert’s music. In some cases, they are individuals with whom Schubert collaborated in the creation of songs, and our program will include a many settings of poetry by Schubert’s friends: Schober, Mayrhofer, Spaun, Schlechta and others.
“In addition we will include a group of songs that Schubert assembled in 1816 and presented to Theresa Grob, a young soprano whom he had hoped to marry. Other highlights will be a Cantata written for the birthday of Vogl, for soprano, tenor, baritone and piano and a great piano duet composition, the Theme and Variations in A-flat major, D. 814.
“Emily Birsan will perform the ‘flower-ballad’ Viola, D. 786, and two Italian canzonas, D. 688 and the previously mentioned Epistle to Josef von Spaun. She will conclude the program with one of Schubert’s best-loved songs, Ellen’s 3rd Song from Scott’s The Lady of the Lake….also known as Ave Maria.”
“The concert will close with an audience singalong of ‘An die Musik.’
“We offer this program of musical collaboration in a spirit of camaraderie, good will, and love for Schubert and his music, in celebration of the composer’s 220th birthday on January 31. From Schubert’s Circle of Friends we reach out to our own Circle of Friends, including the sponsor of these Schubertiades: Ann Boyer.”
Tickets may be purchasedonline, at the Memorial Union Box Office or in Mills Hall, one hour before the concert.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below: Summer Music Clinic photographs by Michael R. Anderson.
All good friends at the 29th Annual Beethoven Piano Competition, sponsored by Emeritus Chancellor Irving Shain
Sunday, April 6, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall. Reception to follow.
When its comes to beautiful music, political differences are all but irrelevant. That will be nicely shown this Sunday at the annual winners recital of the Beethoven Piano Competition, in which UW-Madison School of Music pianists from Ukraine, Russia and China will perform their winning works.
The competition was held last weekend and is now in its 29th year. It is sponsored by former University Chancellor Irving Shain. Winners receive cash honoraria.
The winners are Zijin Yao of China; Oxana Khramova, a Russian native; and Yana Groves, a native of Ukraine. Zijin Yao is a doctoral student in piano performance and pedagogy who studies with professors Martha Fischer and Jessica Johnson. Oxana Khramova is a doctoral student in piano performance and pedagogy who studies with Professor Christopher Taylor. Yana Groves will finish her master’s degree this spring and begin doctoral studies next fall in the studio of Christopher Taylor.
All will perform music composed by Ludvig van Beethoven. The program will include Sonata in D Major, Op. 10 no. 3 (Khramova); 15 Variations and Fugue in Eb Major, op. 35 (“Eroica”) (Zijin Yao); and Sonata in Eb Major, Op. 27 no. 1 (Groves).
The winners will appear in recital on Sunday, April 6 at 3:30 p.m. in Morphy Hall. Admission is free, and there will be a post-concert reception for audience and musicians.
The judge for the competition was Karen Boe from UW-Whitewater, who also awarded an honorable mention to Haley O’Neil, who studies with Christopher Taylor.
Here are biographies of the winning students.
Pianist Zijin Yao was born in China’s Hubei province and received her bachelor’s degree at China Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 2010. In the same year, she was admitted by the Graduate School of China, Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship and received a master’s degree in 2013. A passionate performer, Zijin is the winner of the 2013 Beijing Piano Festival, recipient of the Gold Award of the Piano Group at the 2012 National Music and Dance Competition in Beijing. A committed piano teacher, she has focused on exploring piano pedagogy alongside the art of piano performance. She has published six articles on piano performing and teaching in several major academic journals in China during the last three years.
Oxana Khramova began her musical career at the age of seven. During her studies, Oxana played many solo and chamber music recitals and was a prize winner at the All Russian Piano Competition in 1996. In 2010 Oxana moved to the United States and completed her master’s degree in piano performance at the University of Northern Iowa. Oxana is a teaching assistant at the School of Music, and a piano instructor for the Piano Pioneers program and at Farley’s House of Pianos.
Yana Groves is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she attended Music School # 9 and studied with Glazirina Tatiana, majoring in piano performance. She began her US studies with Dr. Karen Becker at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2007 and has participated in master classes with Evgenia Tzarov and Helen Huang. In the spring of 2011 Groves made her debut as soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 488. She completed her bachelor’s degree with a double major in music and accounting in May 2012, graduating summa cum laude. In the spring of 2013, Yana and flutist Danielle Breisach were the winners of the Annual Shain Woodwind-Piano Duo Competition.
It was the colorful chalk drawings that drew Mike Fuller to sing with Fundamentally Sound, advertisements painted on sidewalks near the Humanities building last September. But it was Mike’s voice–and those of 16 others–that allowed them to win first place a few weeks ago in the first round of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella(ICCA), held at the University of Chicago. The group, open to students who either have “a voice and/or can make noises with your mouth,” according to their website, is an auditioned, all-male a cappella choir founded in 2005 that sings arrangements of Disney songs, rap, hip-hop and more. The group rehearses twice a week, performs regular shows and gigs, and even released a CD in the fall of 2012, “Sounding the Alarm.”
The next competition will be in Normal, Illinois, on April 5. The group will also perform April 25 at the Orpheum Theater on State Street in Madison; buy tickets here.
“It’s a fun escape from homework and studying,” says Mike, a freshman who sang in choirs at Pacelli High School in Stevens Point before entering college. He is not a music major–in fact his favorite class is Physics 109, the physics of light and sound–but is one of many students who take lessons to have fun and improve their skills. Along the way, they sometimes discover they have more talent than they realized.
Last fall he enrolled in Music 144, a group voice lesson class open to non-majors that was taught by Jordan Wilson, a graduate student; this semester, he’s taking lessons from Elizabeth Hagedorn, visiting assistant professor of voice.
The voice lessons have given him much better range, he says. And he’s made a bevy of great new friends. “I feel it was one of the best decisions I made this year at UW-Madison.”
Albany music director and SOM alumnus Brian Gurley is really glad winter is over
Brian Gurley, SOM alumnus in choral conducting (M.M., 2011), moved from Wisconsin last summer to take the position of music director of the 162-year-old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, New York, a church built during the height of the Irish potato famine that served as a refuge for persecuted Irish. Over its century-and-a-half, church activities included welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury, hosting a “forgiveness ceremony” between Catholics and Jews, and avoiding demolition in the 1960s. Lately, the church had been undergoing significant restoration that included replacement of deteriorated sandstone with imported stone from England, new granite steps and a unique rolled lead roof. But this past winter (the one we’re all hoping is finally OVER), as Gurley played a Steinway piano for a choir rehearsal, he heard the sound of dripping water. “My stomach kind of went in my mouth and I thought oh my gosh, they spent all this time and money on the restoration and now the roof leaks,” Gurley told reporter Paul Grondahl of the Albany Times-Union. Want to know what went wrong?Click here to read the entire story.
Pro Arte premiere of new Benoit Mernier string quartet draws appreciative crowd as well as positive critical reviews
The fifth of six world premieres commissioned by Madison’s own Pro Arte String Quartet took place on March 1 in Mills Hall, and was enthusiatically received by former UW-Madison history professor and music critic John Barker (who also helped to plan the centennial events). The new work, funded by both the Pro Arte Quartet and the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, deliberately hailed the quartet’s roots in Belgium, as Mernier is from that country, and “was the most musically satisfying of all the commissioned works presented so far,” according to Barker in a post on The Well-Tempered Ear, Madison’s classical music blog. “Met honestly, the score has a logic and even power to it that one might compare to Bela Bartók’s quartets — and we have all caught up with those by now, haven’t we?” The final commission, a clarinet quintet by French-Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert, will be performed next September.
School of Music music ed students band together to support music education in public schools
Over 40 music ed students have launched a UW-Madison chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).Membership will allow students to network for job and educational advancement, as well as finding ways to assist area schools, according to Dan Joosten, co-president. The chapter is advised by Teri Dobbs, associate professor of music education and Darin Olson, assistant director of bands.
With over 130,00 members, NAfME bills itself as the world’s oldest arts education organization, and includes students, faculty, and professional teachers, both active and retired. According to its website, “NAfME developed the National Standards for Music Education and administered the overall development of the National Standards for Arts Education (1994) under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Standards represent the first comprehensive set of educational standards for K–12 arts instruction.” The group meets Wednesday nights at 8PM in Humanities. For more information, contact Dan Joosten at email@example.com, or Jenny Deroche at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Piano Extravaganza High School Competition announces winners
Saturday, March 1 was the inaugural UW-Madison School of Music Piano Extravaganza Competition. Nine finalists from Wisconsin and Minnesota competed for cash prizes. The 1st prize winner ($1,500) was Vivian Wilhelms, a freshman at Waunakee High School. Vivian is a student of William Lutes and was a finalist of the 2010 Chopin Piano Competition in Milwaukee, 2011 winner of the Fall Youth Concerto Competition sponsored by the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and 2013 winner of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. The 2nd prize winner ($1,000) was Garrick Olsen, of Madison. Garrick studies with William Lutes and plans to major in piano performance in college next fall. Garrick will make his subscription concert debut with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in May 2015, playing Gershwins’ I Got Rhythm Variations. He is the winner of a number of competitions, including the Wisconsin Public Radio’s 2013 Neale-Silva Young Artist Competition, the 2012 PianoArts award for Best Performance of a North American Competition, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 Bolz Young Artist Competition (“Final Forte”) as well as MSO’s 2003 Fall Youth Concerto Competition. 3rd prize ($500) went to Quinton Nennig from Sherwood, Wisconsin. Quinton currently studies at the Interlochen Arts Academy with Dr. TJ Lymenstull, where he is the recipient of a merit scholarship. Previous studies were with Nina Mink. His many accomplishments include winning Lawrence University’s Piano Festival (2009-2012), and 1st place in the WMTA Badger Competition in 2010 and 2012. Honorable mention went to Theodore Liu, a sophomore at Waunakee Community High School. Theodore studies with Shu-Ching Chuang and plays trumpet in band and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. He is very fond of mathematics and science due to their precision and logic.
Judges for the competition were Jess Johnson, Christopher Taylor, John Stowe, Todd Welbourne, Dino Mulic and Seungwha Baek.
The Piano Extravaganza Competition was sponsored by the Evjue Foundation and Former Chancellor Irving Shain.
Pianist Christopher Taylor receives patent for new double keyboard
It’s official: The new digital double keyboard piano invented by UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor, modeled after a unique double Steinway that resides in Taylor’s office, is the owner of patent number 8,664,497, issued to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Association on March 4. As described in San Francisco’s Classical Voice: “The instrument setup is an unusual one in that a console, with the two sets of 88 keys, will drive two “slave” pianos, remotely. The console piano will not produce any sound. Instead, an electronic sensor will record what a pianist is playing and instantaneously send that information across the stage, MIDI style, to two normal pianos that will produce the music.” Taylor has worked extensively with scientists and technicians at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery to perfect the instrument.
It’s not built yet, though. What it means is that anyone with an interest in something very musical and very new could apply for a license to pursue actual construction of the piano, says WARF spokeswoman Emily Bauer, license manager. “It’s a cool case. We’d love to see it licensed and commercialized,” Bauer says.
Taylor hopes that in a couple of years, he’ll be able to unveil both the first iteration of this new piano and a new piece written especially for it. He’s already talked to composer Derek Bermel about the idea. “Bermel welcomes the idea of writing music for an instrument where limitations are not known. The possibilities for new music are many, said Bermel, who wrote his first work for Taylor — a solo piano piece titled Turning — in 1995,” wrote Classical Voice writer Edward Ortiz. “ ‘[Repeated] notes on one set of hammers are pretty tough to play, but with two sets of hammers you can repeat notes by playing one note on one keyboard and a note on the other; then you can get this incredible, drumroll-like effect,’ said Bermel. “ ‘Also, there are some chords you cannot play on the piano because they would be too wide —– you would need fingers that were two feet long!’ ”
SAVE THE DATE! SELECTED UPCOMING CONCERTS AT THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Paul Rowe, Julia Foster, and Martha Fischer perform the Italienisches Liederbuch of Hugo Wolf
Austrian-born Hugo Wolf(1860-1903), a child prodigy who became a devotee of Richard Wagner, was known for his “concentrated expressive intensity” in his compositions, especially his lieder (songs). On March 26, at 7:30 PM in Mills Hall, voice professor Paul Rowe, alumna Julia Foster (now assistant professor of voice and opera at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida) and pianist Martha Fischer will perform his “Italian Songs.” Read about the program here (PDF): Notes on the “Italienisches Liederbuch” of Hugo Wolf
Cello professor Uri Vardi bridges a cultural divide with trans-Middle Eastern music
On April 5 at 8 PM, cello professor Uri Vardi, oud artist Taiseer Elias, and composer/pianist Menachem Wiesenberg will present a concert, “Fusions,” of Arabic and Israeli music on the stage of Mills Hall, co-sponsored by UW’s Center for Jewish Studies. Elias is founder and conductor of the first Orchestra of Classical Arabic Music in Israel and is currently the musical director and conductor of the Arab-Jewish Youth Orchestra; he is the head of the Eastern Music Department at the Jerusalem Music Academy and is a professor of musicology at Bar Ilan University. Wiesenberg is a professor and dean of composition, conducting, and music education at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and also a senior consultant to the Jerusalem Music Center. Cellist and pedagogue Uri Vardi has performed as a recitalist, soloist, and chamber player across the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, and his native Israel. Born in Szeged, Hungary, Vardi grew up on kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh, Israel. He studied at the Rubin Academy in Tel Aviv, was an Artist Diploma student at Indiana University, and earned his Master’s degree from Yale University.
The concert will be repeated on Sunday, April 6 on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Live at the Chazen afternoon show, starting at 12:30 PM. It will also be held in Milwaukee that evening. Learn more here.
Final Farlow opera to be staged April 11, 13, and 15 in Music Hall
Put it on your calendar: After 15 years with University Opera, director William Farlow will retire after this spring’s performance of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, a comic opera in two acts that was Berlioz’s last work; according to a National Public Radio story from 2009, it “combines the signature brilliance and bombast of composer with the sly, comedic insights of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” Berlioz wrote both the libretto and the music. Look for an official news release very soon. Hear the overture in this YouTube video clip.
Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at (click “buy tickets” on the site): http://www.uniontheater.wisc.edu/location.html
JUST ANNOUNCED: OPERA STAR SUSANNE MENTZER TO CONDUCT MASTER CLASS AT SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Opera singer Susanne Mentzer, in town for Madison Opera’s April 25-27 production of Dead Man Walking, will conduct a master class on Monday, April 7 at the School of Music, 1:15 to 3:15 in Room 1321 (one floor below below Mills Hall). This event is free and open to the public. Ms. Mentzer will be working one-on-one with students, performing a signature aria for the class, conducting a Q&A session, and staying to meet and greet all attendees. From her online bio: “Ms. Mentzer has appeared with nearly all the major opera companies, orchestras and festivals of North and South America, Europe and Japan. For over 20 years she has sung leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera. She has collaborated with many of the world’s great conductors and singers including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Pierre Boulez and Christoph Eschenbach, Joan Sutherland, Shirley Verrett, Placido Domingo, Natalie Dessay, Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Carol Vaness, Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey, Frederica von Stade to name just a few.” Read more here: http://www.susannementzer.com/index.html
A round of applause for Sarah Brailey, a 2007 master’s graduate who studied with vocal professor Paul Rowe and received the School’s prestigious Collins Fellowship, who has been lately appearing on stages from continent to continent, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Barbican in London, and Electric Lady in Greenwich Village. Sarah is a full-time member of the Choir of Trinity Church on Wall Street and has been a part-time writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council (“who are totally supportive of my singing and are willing to let me have a very flexible schedule”). Nowadays, though, singing is taking the biggest role in her life.
Sarah, who received a bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, is originally from LaCrosse, Wisconsin. While in Madison, she played the role of Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with University Opera.
Here’s what Sarah says about her work these days: “I’ve been on tour with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and The English Concert, doing Handel’s Theodora. Among the incredible soloists are David Daniels, Dorothea Röschmann, and Sarah Connolly. We have been to Sonoma and Costa Mesa, California, Chapel Hill, and will have concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican in London, Town Hall in Birmingham (England), and the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris.
“I have recently started working with legendary composer John Zorn. This past summer, we premiered his “Madrigals” at the Guggenheim Museum.” Wrote the New York Times’s Steve Smith: “Those singers and three more — the sopranos Lisa Bielawa and Sarah Brailey, and the mezzo-soprano Abby Fischer — brought the same exactitude and luster to “Madrigals,” for which Mr. Zorn assembled phrases inspired by reading Percy Bysshe Shelley. Harmonically consonant, often unambiguously melodic and rhythmically effervescent, these half-dozen songs could easily slip into standard repertory.”
“We also sang his piece, ‘Holy Visions,’ based on the writings of Hildegard von Bingen, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of an entire day dedicated to his works that were performed throughout the museum. We traveled to Huddersfield, England to perform both pieces in the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and will be recording Holy Visions this spring.
“I have also worked on and off this season with the Grammy-winning contemporary a cappella vocal group, Roomful of Teeth. The photograph is from a recording session we did in August with Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs at Electric Lady in Greenwich Village. Electric Lady was originally built by Jimi Hendrix and has been used by artists such as John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Kiss, Daft Punk, and AC/DC.
National alumni, take note! Sarah’s other upcoming performances include:
Feb 26, 5pm, CUNY Grad Center: I’m performing a song cycle by André Brégégère with text by French-Carribean poet Édouard Glissant on CUNY’s Composers Now Festival. March 4, 8pm, Alice Tully Hall: I’m soloing with The American Classical Orchestra in Handel’s Samson under the direction of Nicholas McGegan. March 14 in Aiken, S. Carolina; March 16 in Morrow, GA; March 17 at Alice Tully in NYC: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Juilliard 415. March 29-30: I’m performing Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN. April 18: I’m performing Josep Sanz’s King Lear with Ekmeles at the MATA Festival in NYC.
Wingra Woodwind Quintet and Wisconsin Brass Quintet on tour to northern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota
The Wisconsin Idea is alive and well in the School of Music. This week, two of our four ensembles-in-residence will be on the road, offering a wonderful opportunity for classical music aficionados who don’t live in Madison (and we know there are many!) to hear some beautiful music.
In Madison, you can see the quintet perform on March 29, at 8 Pm in Mills Hall.
Wingra Woodwind Quintet:
This Wednesday in Madison, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet will perform at a new location, Capital Lakes Retirement Community, 333 West Main Street, 7:30 pm. The quintet will also perform at a special dinner concert at the University Club on May 8.
Meanwhile, here in Madison we have a few special events on the docket for this weekend and next week….including the Pro Arte Quartet’s world premiere of String Quartet No. 3 by Belgian composer Benoit Mernier (read this week’s story by local blogger Jake Stockinger) and a residency by three musicians of the Sibelius Academy, in Helsinki, Finland. That residency begins with a master class for singers and collaborative pianist on March 2. Read more, including the complete schedule, here.
Piano Extravaganza! to feature well-known pianists as well as rising stars
Hear the UW’s best collegiate pianists, faculty and high school talents at an all-day festival this Saturday at UW-Madison. Masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW-Madison faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues. Here is the schedule of events:
Friday, February 28, 2014
8:00 PM: Mills Concert Hall: Christopher Taylor, Faculty Concert Series
Saturday, March 1, 2014
8:30-11:00 AM: Piano Extravaganza Competition
11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Professor Johannes Wallmann, Jazz Improvisation Workshop
1:30-3:30 PM: Masterclass and Q&A with UW Piano Faculty
3:45-6:30 PM: Jazz and Blues in Classical Music (Performed by UW-Madison Piano Majors)
The UW-Madison Piano Program announces a piano competition for emerging regional pianists, to be held at the School of Music, Feb. 28 to March 1, 2014. In addition to a competition, the event will include masterclasses, workshops and performances hosted by UW faculty and students. This year’s Piano Extravaganza will feature piano works influenced by jazz and blues.
Include your name and the tag #Piano Extravaganza in the subject line.
Technically poor recordings will be rejected. The submission should consist of an unedited recording of two contrasting works from different historical/style periods. Please label recording with your name and titles of compositions/composer/estimated timing.
Each pianist will submit an unedited recording of two memorized, contrasting pieces from different historical/style periods. Four judges will evaluate the recordings and choose 10 finalists. Competitors will be notified by e-mail and letter no later than February 14, 2014.
Each pianist will perform two memorized, contrasting works from different historical/style periods. Each contestant will be allotted a maximum of 10 minutes of performance time. The final round of the competition will be open to the public and take place on Saturday, March 1, 2014, 8:00 -11:00 a.m., at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Morphy Recital Hall, during the UW-Madison Piano Extravaganza, (George Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St.) before a panel of four judges.
All finalists must provide two copies of the works to be performed at the competition finals. Photocopies are not acceptable.
The prizes will be presented at the end of Prof. Johannes Wallmann’s Jazz Improvisation Workshop, 12:00 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall. Winners of the competition will be invited to perform in a masterclass led by UW Piano Faculty. All students are invited to attend all Piano Extravaganza Events.
Contestants will be responsible for their own travel and food expenses.
All finalists are invited to attend all other Piano Extravaganza Events.
For more information, contact Sara Giusti at email@example.com.
UW School of Music Piano Faculty:
Collaborative Piano and Piano Pedagogy: Prof. Martha Fischer
Professor of Piano and Collaborative Piano: Prof. Jessica Johnson
Professor of Piano: Christopher Taylor
Director of Jazz Studies: Assistant Professor Johannes Wallmann
Professor of Piano, Director of Graduate Studies, Keyboard Area Chair: Prof. Todd Welbourne.