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Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Classical Preview

Live classical music generally takes the summer off, with the possible exception of a Fourth of July event held outdoors with lawn chairs and picnic tables substituting for plush seats at a concert hall. The Waukesha Symphony Orchestra (WSO) has just such an event planned, but apart from an “Armed Forces Salute,” much of the program takes on a distinctly Slavic flavor. Since the WSO’s upcoming season is focused on Rachmaninov and his world, Maestro Alexander Platt enlists the summer pops concert as an overture to next season.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Classical Preview

“Fate blessed him when he was baptized with the perfect name—Felix,” said Robert Schumann when describing fellow composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47). Mendelssohn grew up in the midst of wealth and calm, and to a great extent his music reflects a Romantic spirit, but also great emotional tranquility. Few think him innovative, yet to a large degree Mendelssohn is to be credited with saving the piano concerto from being snuffed out. By 1830, composers like Hummel, Thalberg and Moscheles had brought the piano concerto to something of an artistic dead end, but Mendelssohn, sensing the crisis, drafted his own such effort in 1831, managing therein to breathe new life into a moribund musical genre.
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Classical Preview

Describing a piece of music that combines Russian folk music and Asian-inflected themes as “the peace-loving songs of the conquered and their conquerors joined in harmony” may be an almost alien thought to our 21st-century ears, but such was the thinking of many composers during the 19th . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Classical Preview

When Johann Sebastian Bach set himself to work on a new composition, it was normally just a matter of days, at most a week or two, before it was finished. Such was certainly not the case with his Mass in B Minor, BWV 232. The fourth part (Sanctus) dates from 1724; the first two parts (Kyrie and Gloria) were completed in 1733; the third part (Credo), as well as the work’s final autograph score, date from 1748, just two years before . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Classical Preview

Countless plays, operas and movies have been based on the works of the great Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), varying from word-for-word adaptations to loose borrowing of plot or characters. Among those who owe a debt to Shakespeare is Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35), whose I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and Montagues) is based on the Bard’s immortal tale of love and death, Romeo and Juliet (1595), albeit several times removed. The libretto by Felice Romani that Bellini used was a reworking of Shakespeare’s legendary tale as first intended for use as Giulietta e Romeo by the composer Nicola Vaccai; and in doing so, Romani drew upon the 1818 play Giulietta e Romeo by Luigi Scevola!
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Classical Preview

This weekend, concertgoers will get a peek into the future with a performance by conductor Edo de Waart, music director designate of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The concert’s first half consists of a work called In Praise of Music by Pennsylvania native Dominick Argento (b. 1927). Typical of many 20th-century composers, his style reflects many influences—tonality, atonality, 12-tone method—but never became “avant-garde,” unlike several of his postwar contemporaries.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Classical Preview

Composers do not live in a vacuum and thus cannot help but be influenced to some degree by their surroundings and even by the works of other composers. Indeed, some composers have deliberately sought out their cohorts to refresh their thinking or find a new approach. New York-born composer John Corigliano’s (b. 1938) music emphasizes musical architecture, color and dramatic effects, and though steeped in the post-Romantic aesthetic nevertheless shows the influence of the Minimalist and Serialist schools as well. The next Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert opens with Corigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato (1986), a work he based on the Allegretto of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (1811).
Classical Music/Dance
Monday, March 17, 2008

Classical Preview

Among the composers most well known to classical music lovers are probably not Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) or Fernando Sor (1778-1839). The guitar has (as far as Classical Music is concerned) always been something of the ugly stepsister amongst the instruments.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Classical Preview

After reading through the score of a brand-new work by a friend and fellow composer, the semiretired Johannes Brahms remarked: “Why on Earth didn’t I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago.” High praise, indeed, from a man notoriously parsimonious with praise for his contemporary composers.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Classical Review

In their latest concerts (Feb. 24 and 26), the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Platt performed two works of Beethoven paired with a relatively unknown American piece and a quite obscure Estonian work, and Beethoven lost! The concert began with his Fidelio Overture, Op. 72b (1814). The sprightly overture— the fourth Beethoven composed for his only opera and the one that, in his perfectionist estimation, finally made the cut—is a fine choice for a concert opener as well. Platt lead a generally good performance of this work, with driving, sharp and crisp string passages, but there was trouble brewing in the brass section: The several horn calls were uneven and off pitch. Decidedly better was Fratres (1976) by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a work for strings and percussion—something of an Eastern European counterpart to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Fratres consists . . .

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