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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 . . .
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Classical Preview

It was not false modesty that prompted Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) to write to thenfamous singer Maria Waldmann, inviting her to participate in the premiere of his 1883 Messa da Requiem. “You would gain neither reputation nor money from it,” he wrote, continuing that the work’s main attribute was simply that it commemorated a great man. It might, Verdi added, “make history,” not due to “the merit of the music but because of the man to whom it is dedicated.” One supposes he had reason to doubt its lasting value, given its difficult birth. The piece had originally been conceived as a requiem mass to be performed on the first anniversary of the death of the Italian opera master Gioacchino Rossini—a work to be contributed to by several different composers. Verdi wrote a “Libera me” portion for this work, but it just never came off.
Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008

Today @ the Marcus Center - 2:30 PM

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band have cemented themselves as the torchbearers of the Big Easy’s entire jazz heritage. It’s no small burden, but the ambassadors represent their city well, laying down festive, old-timey jazz as well as bone-chilling funeral dirges that have taken on newfound gravity since . . .