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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.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Classical Review

The latest collaboration between Present Music and Danceworks was performed last weekend at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center. Six dances by five choreographers were performed to various works performed by the Present Music ensemble. Danceworks’ dancers vary in abilities and maturity. There was a general imbalance to the evening, with seasoned professional musicians playing evolved works for young dancers and choreographers not up to the level of the music making.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Classical Review

Vincenzo Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) is the kind of repertory rarity that lifetime opera fans might never encounter. And for good reason. It is not one of the best Bellini scores, nor is it a shining example of Italian opera of its era. So why did Florentine Opera, which only produces three operas each season, feel the need to produce it? The Florentine production, which played for three performances last weekend, was titled Romeo and Juliet. However, the opera is not particularly based on Shakespeare, but rather on Italian novella sources.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Classical Review

Friday evening at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was the debut of conductor Edo de Waart, music director designate, who will begin the post in September of 2009. There was a jittery edge to the performance, understandable from an orchestra eager to play for its new maestro. It was exciting, but not always elegant. I returned Saturday night to hear if the performance would become more settled. In most ways it did.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Classical Review

Classical music is as much about acoustics and a sympathetic atmosphere as it is about literature and performance. I recently attended a Vienna Philharmonic concert in the famous Musikverein, a marvel of a Viennese concert hall. The warmth and intimacy of that great space leaves most modern halls, such as our Uihlein Hall, feeling vast and cold. What would our very good Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra—and its anonymous and coughing audience in the spacious dark—become in a better space? The sudden burst of spring weather matched the theme of the MSO concert last weekend. Andreas Delfs led Beethoven Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”), which began with restraint in its first movement, certainly pastoral in spirit