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Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009
While watching a movie at the Oriental Theatre on Saturday evening my mind was adrift with what I had heard at Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra the night before. With the film still rolling I left my stunned friends for Uihlein Hall, arriving in time for Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, conducted by Vasily Petrenko. I had to hear it again. A tall, blonde and boyishly handsome 32-year-old Russian, Petrenko is the young celebrity face of classical music in Europe...
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Classical Review

Gilbert Varga, guest conductor of last weekend's Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concerts, is an impressive presence on the podium. He leads with supreme musicianship, care, insight, taste and style. Most important, he seems an able communicator to the orchestra. From memory Varga led Haydn's Symphony No. 73 ("La Chasse") with understanding of the composer's wit and playfulness. It was a thoughtful, tight, spontaneous performance. Varga's versatility...
Off the Cuff
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009
Last spring Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, learned that a Stradivarius violin built in 1715, which some experts believed had disappeared, was in a bank vault in Milwaukee.The undisclosed owner offered Almond the opportunity to play it on long-term loan. “Strads,"...
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...