Arts and Culture

Classical season finales not to be missed

The refrains of May

No one can be blamed for desperately wanting the weather to cooperate and summer to arrive. But until the rain subsides and the temps creep up to allow for outdoor concerts, plan on seeing one or more of these local classical music end-of-season performances indoors this month.

Madison Symphony Orchestra
As usual, Madison Symphony Orchestra music director John DeMain closes a season (his 23rd here), featuring a major choral masterpiece. In fact, he has wanted to program Brahms’ “A German Requiem” for a number of years, but felt that the Madison Symphony Chorus (under the preparation of Beverly Taylor) needed to grow into the challenge. Brahms eschewed the Catholic liturgy, and partly in response to the death of his mother, penned one of the most poignant and comforting choral works of all time. The performances (May 5, 6 and 7) also feature soprano Devon Guthrie and bass-baritone Timothy Jones. We’ll also be treated to a much overdue U.S. premiere of “Concert Piece for Organ and Orchestra” by the Irishman Charles Stanford with Nathan Laube returning as guest soloist.

Oakwood Chamber Players
The Oakwood Chamber Players never fail to stimulate with their programming. In their closing concerts May 13 and 14 at Oakwood University Woods West they will be joined by compelling local woodwind quintet Black Marigold. The program, titled “Looking Closely at the Score; Can We Get Inside the Minds of Composers?” highlights some real rarities by Joan Trimble, Vincent D’Indy, Luise Adolpha Le Beau and Joachim Raff. If anyone can take us there, OCP and Black Marigold can.

Ancora Quartet
The Ancora Quartet concludes another quietly stellar season with a fascinating pairing of quartets that can be heard May 13 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Regent Street. The second quartet of Saint-Saens has a late opus number, but still brims with youth and agility. The second half is devoted to the first of Beethoven’s late quartets, “No. 12 in E-flat, Op. 127”—written shortly after he completed his epic “Symphony No. 9.” Violinists Wes Luke and Robin Ryan, violist Marika Fischer Hoyt and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb always provide that ideal combination of individual mastery and ensemble unity which marks every great chamber ensemble.

Salon Piano Series
As has been the case in recent seasons, the Salon Piano Series, hosted by Farley’s House of Pianos, offers a player or small ensemble rather than a pianist. On Friday, May 19, you can enjoy the intimacy, restored historic keyboard and a powerhouse program offered by the Isabella Lippi Trio. Named for the violinist of the group, the ensemble includes cellist Paula Kosower and pianist Kuang-Hao Huang. They will tackle no fewer than three of the most powerful piano trios: Mozart’s “K. 502,” Shostakovich’s “Piano Trio No. 2” and Dvorak’s final trio, nicknamed “Dumky” for its abundant use of the Bohemian dance so close to Dvorak’s heart. As always, the reception that follows is an unbeatable opportunity to talk to the artists and Tim and Renee Farley about the concert and the setting.

con vivo … music with life!
con vivo…music with life! close their 15th season by expanding the number of players—and inviting back John DeMain to conduct the enlarged forces. The May 25 program is a heady mix of rarities and a standard (albeit one not often encountered in live performance): “Spohr’s Nonet,” “Martinu’s Nonet” and a not-so-minor masterpiece by Dvorak, “Serenade for Winds” (which includes cello and bass). The event is enhanced by an amiable reception

Greg Hettmansberger reviews classical music and opera for madisonmagazine.com.


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