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Monday, Aug. 30, 2010

Fall Classical Music Preview

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Milwaukee classical music fans are blessed to have so many options available to them, as this smattering of highlights from the new music season makes crystal clear.

The Fine Arts Quartet opens its season with a classical masterpiece and two 20th-century works. Wolfgang Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C Major got its nickname (Dissonant) from its slow, tense introduction. But soon enough this disquieting adagio gives way to a bright allegro; a warm andante cantabile follows, then a Haydnesque minuet and typically joyful finale. St. Petersburg-born Boris Tishchenko has been a professor at his hometown’s music conservatory since 1986. His String Quartet No. 5 thus far remains his final statement in the form. The String Quartet in D Minor is Jean Sibelius’ sole venture into the genre and, true to his nature, is largely introspective and intimate. This concert takes place Sept. 12 at UWM’s Helen Bader Concert Hall.

The first Present Music concert is something of a hello/goodbye event. The “hello” is a welcome to Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of the great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev), who, along with the Present Music ensemble, performs his Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra. The “goodbye” is to keyboardist Phillip Bush, who is retiring after 15 seasons with Present Music. Bush performs the solo part in the Piano Concerto of Gyrgy Ligeti, a composer who stands with Stockhausen, Berio and Boulez among the most influential (and experimental) late-20th-century composers. This concert takes place Sept. 18 in the Turner Hall Ballroom.

Just two days before the Feast of St. Francis, Early Music Now presents, appropriately enough, Il Poverello—Exploring the Life and Deeds of St. Francis of Assisi, which it promises will comprise “a joyful program about the ‘hippie’ saint…of animals and ecology.” The 13-member Rose Ensemble performs motets, hymns and dances for voice and period instruments. This concert takes place Oct. 2 in St. Joseph Chapel.

Given the success of a similarly themed concert last season, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra presents a second all-Rachmaninoff program under maestro Edo de Waart and featuring pianist Joyce Yang. Rachmaninoff’s symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead was inspired by a painting that depicts a gloomy island and huge rock, within which are chambers for the dead. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a tuneful piece for piano and orchestra, includes the famous “18th Variation,” one of Rachmaninoff’s most beloved creations. Vocalise, though originally for voice and piano, is most well known in its purely orchestral guise. Finally, the three Symphonic Dances represent Rachmaninoff’s last completed work. This concert takes place Oct. 8-10 in Uihlein Hall.

2010 is the bicentennial of two Romantic giants, Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann—birthdays that aren’t forgotten by Frankly Music. The program consists of various piano pieces by Chopin, one of the most significant and brilliant composers for the piano, performed by William Wolfram. Schumann is commemorated by his Mrchenbilder (“Fairy-Tale Pictures”) for Viola and Piano and Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major. This concert takes place Nov. 29-30 in the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

The Florentine Opera has always done good work in presenting the standard operatic repertoire, especially, as its name suggests, by the great Italian composers. But to open its 77th season, the Florentine ventures into new land with its first world premiere, Rio de Sangre, a Latin-flavored work in Spanish by Emmy-winning composer Don Davis and librettist Kate Gale. The tale of 21st-century murder, revenge and madness will be directed by Paula Suozzi. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Joseph Rescigno will conduct the orchestra, which will be accompanied by a chorus and a merengue band, Oct. 22-24 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

Finally, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra opens its season Sept. 19 at Calvary Presbyterian Church (935 W. Wisconsin Ave.) with Giovanni Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite and John Tavener’s contemporary work Cantus Mysticus. Featured are soprano Amy Conn and mezzo-soprano Nicole Warner, winners of the 2010 Bel Canto Chorus Regional Artists Competition.