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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...
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008

Classical Review

A friend said to me recently, “I have tickets to La bohème at the Skylight, but after their La traviata last season, I’m not sure I want to go.” For anyone else with concerns about standard opera repertory at the Skylight, be assured that the new production of La bohème, which opened last weekend, is not a wild re-conception of the musical score or libretto to Puccini’s opera. Director Bill Theisen, artistic director at the Skylight, placed the opera in 1930s Paris rather than the1830s, a gentle change . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

Classical Review

This past Saturday evening Present Music added Turner Hall to its list of previously unexplored concert venues. The stage, space and acoustics are inviting. With needed refurbishing Turner Hall could become a jewel for classical performances.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Classical Review

Some classical soloists are distinctive in their idiosyncrasies. Violinist Gil Shaham, who performed with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend, rarely plays to the audience. Rather, he turns to the musicians around him, but primarily to the conductor. You feel as if you are eavesdropping on a collaborative pleasure taking place onstage. Shaham played the Brahms Violin Concerto with an intense, large and colorful tone. He jumped in with both feet to attack formidable challenges and was wonderfully successful, from incisive drama to lyrical spin. Was humidity a factor in his not quite perfect tuning Friday evening?
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Classical Review

The automatic, meaningless standing ovation has been out of control in the U.S. for years. Does it come from the American need to overstate everything? Maybe it indicates a lack of standards. It is refreshing to attend performances in Germany and Austria, where knowledgeable audiences applaud appreciatively at length, but never stand up. I am accustomed to being the only one sitting during applause, and am familiar with the resulting looks I get. It is a ridiculous situation. A good performance does not merit a “standing O.”
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Classical Review

I have thought about violinist Hilary Hahn more than any other musician who works the concerto circuit. She has played here often, nearly every season for many years now, returning last weekend to play with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. I certainly am intrigued by her phenomenal technique and the clarity of her musicality. Beyond that, she has a mystery about her that I find both fascinating and frustrating. I never feel as if I know her when she leaves the stage. At 28 this formerly waifish prodigy now understandably wants to be seen as a young woman. One only needed to look at her concert dress, black and decidedly adult, with a plunging neckline, to get the message. Hahn played the iconic Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which she is performing with several orchestras through the coming fall . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Classical Review

The Mass in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the marvels of musical accomplishments. Its composer seemed to believe that God is, among other attributes, the ultimate intellect. This music achieves its exaltation through rigorous depth, exploring the expansion of every Baroque musical form and compositional device. The Mass in B Minor, performed by Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last weekend, is a mountain Andreas Delfs obviously wanted to climb with the orchestra and chorus. It was an inspired journey. There are certain trade-offs that are givens when a traditional symphony orchestra and chorus present a major Baroque work such as this.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Classical Review

There aren’t many real stars among instrumentalists in classical music today. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is at the top of the list. In a gala performance with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra last Wednesday night Ma portrayed Cervantes’ demented hero in Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote as convincingly as any dramatized version. We expect beautiful tone and masterful phrasing from Ma. I wasn’t prepared for his depth of humanity in this piece and overwhelming musical acting, portraying the character’s swoons, groans and palpable longing. The Don’s aching idealism ended with a heartbreaking death scene from Ma.