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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?
Classical Review
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008
There was an exciting revelation at Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend: the bandoneon featured in a concerto by the Argentinian master of the tango, Astor Piazzolla (1921- 1992). Piazzolla's tangos show up regularly in diverse contexts.
Classical Music/Dance
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008

Classical Review

There was an exciting revelation at Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend: the bandoneon featured in a concerto by the Argentinian master of the tango, Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Piazzolla's tangos show up regularly in diverse contexts. His concert works are still rarely programmed.
Classical Review
Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008
Two seasons ago Vladimir Feltsman commented negatively about the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Steinway and urged its replacement on a live local public television broadcast. That concert was re-broadcast, and apparently eventually led to the donors' gift of a new piano. The old MSO Steinway has a resonant ring, but also a loose rattle and unevenness. It was time to move on.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

Classical Reveiw

Any organization that survives 50 years deserves to celebrate. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra crosses that milestone this season, and kicked off commemorations with a 50th Anniversary Gala last Thursday evening. The unsentimental truth is that at 50 the ensemble is almost certainly at its peak in quality. Its best years are likely yet to come. Itzhak Perlman was guest artist for the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The audience was excited by his presence, and perhaps did not notice that there was lagging energy in most of Perlman's first movement. His playing woke up in the cadenza at the end of the movement, but it wasn't until the high, pure melodies of the second movement that...