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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?
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.”
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 . . .
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.
Friday, May 23, 2008

Tonight @ the Marcus Center - 8 p.m.

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 . . .
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.
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
Friday, March 14, 2008

Tonight @ Uihlein Hall - 8:00 PM

After a career’s worth of notable hits and memorable tunes, piano man Randy Newman settled into a lucrative niche a decade ago as the resident soundtrack man for Disney/Pixar, snagging several Golden Globe and Academy Awards in the process. Since his 1999 album Bad Love, Newman’s only fresh output has been . . .
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This Week in Milwaukee

As riotous as his altercations with the (often bumbling) law were in his classic stoner comedies with Cheech Marin, there was nothing funny about Tommy Chong’s real life run-in with the authorities. In 2003, Chong was sentenced to nine months in jail for financing a business that sold drug paraphernalia—
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tonight @ the Riverside Theater - 8:00 PM

Lending an air of sophistication—or at least extravagant novelty—to well-known video game scores, Video Games Live is an interactive experience complete with light shows and live-action performances. This 8 p.m. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performance tonight will rely heavily on familiar themes from Super Mario . . .