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Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009

Classical Review

Present Music explored yet another venue in two concerts last weekend at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, home to the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and other organizations. I caught the Saturday performance. The space, a multipurpose room with moveable seating and a wooden floor, has a clean, true sound with just the right amount of resonance. It may be the best place in Milwaukee for...
Classical Music/Dance
Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009
Symphony No. 9, one of the icons of Western art music, should have a sense of occasion about it. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performance last Saturday night fell short of that. The guest conductor, Lawrence Renes, obviously had a theory about the historical period of the piece, evidenced by a reduced string section and a smaller chorus than usual.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008

Classical Review

Last Saturday evening Early Music Now returned to a seldom used performance venue, the St. Joseph Center Chapel on Layton Boulevard. A majority of Milwaukeeans have no idea of the existence of this ornate chapel, consecrated in 1917 and adorned with Austrian stained glass and mosaics. In a city of noteworthy church and chapel designs, this distinguished space stands out. Considering the demographics of...
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008

Classical Review

Worried about sounding like the bland sentiments of a Hallmark card, I would not normally use the words love and joy to describe a performance. However, they richly apply to Nicholas McGegan's work as guest conductor with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend. His love and joy in music making is contagious, spreading to the orchestra and the audience. Though I have only heard the last half of the MSO's 50 years, I would guess that McGegan has been the most successful guest conductor...
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

Classical Review

You know that something's not right when you feel no rise of tears at the end of Madama Butterfly, and observe no emotion in anyone in the audience within view. This is despite Puccini's masterfully melodramatic music, and the suicide of a Japanese bride who made the mistake of trusting in the love of an American naval officer. The Florentine Opera production of last weekend missed the mark. The problem probably was not the cast, which was competent to good. On Saturday evening Barbara Divis appeared in the title role. (Robin Follman played the part on Friday and Sunday.) Divis has enough vocal color and...
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008

Classical Review

What is early music? Once in a while an innovative concert on the excellent Early Music Now series raises that question. The vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval, from Oslo, pushed boundaries and definitions in a program of Norwegian folk songs last Friday night at All Saints' Cathedral. Folk music is old music by nature, its anonymous origins lost in time, passed from one singer to another, and undoubtedly undergoing changes along the way. I recall folk music as incidental content on past Early Music Now concerts, but...
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

Classical Review

A great piano performance of almost any literature excites me. Somewhere in my adult reaction are the dreams of my 12-year-old pianist self, who listened to recordings by famous artists then ran to the instrument to attempt imitation. Once in a blue moon a gripping performance brings up those delusional boyish hopes, an embarrassing but oddly awakening memory. Sometimes we need to be reminded that music can inspire us to dream. Such thoughts were provoked by Horacio Gutiérrez's performance of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Milwaukee...
Classical Music/Dance
Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008

Classical Review

A fundamental strength of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the high artistry of a few key musicians. Among them is Todd Levy, soloist in the concerts of last weekend in Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Quintet. (The string quartet parts were given to a reduced string section.) With masterful technique Levy demonstrated why the clarinet is the most richly multi-faceted of woodwind instruments. Levy presented arresting contrasts and colors: bubbling fountains of sound, plaintive melancholy, athletic leaps and scales, ethereally birdlike ornaments, the...
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Classical Review

There is never a shortage of extremely talented, elite young musicians who want to tour the world playing concertos and recitals. Almost none of them have the complete artistry of American violinist Stefan Jackiw, who made his debut with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend. Jackiw played the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with refined and deep technique, freshness, consistent and warm tone, incisive rhythm and tasteful grace. The sophisticated performance was an ideal balance of intellect and emotion. Even at 23, Jackiw has the assurance of someone who knows who he is and what he has to say. His choice of encore on Saturday evening-a slow solo Bach movement-and his spaciously poetic, intensely quiet interpretation...
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

Classical Review

   Who is the audience? It is the most often recurring thought I have as a critic. The place of classical music in culture is central to the pondering, but the question also boils down to local issues. As someone who attends more than most, it is endlessly interesting to ponder why and how our top Milwaukee professional performing groups attract different audiences. Is it venue? Marketing? Is it the musical literature programmed? The performances? Are the reasons social? Is the answer about a comfort zone of familiarity that formed years ago for reasons long forgotten?