February welcomes musical guests to Madison

Guest artists and another showcase promise...
February welcomes musical guests to Madison
Violinist Alina Ibragimova performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra February 12-14.

You don’t need a groundhog–or a meteorologist–to predict the climate of Madison’s classical scene in February. It promises to be a month of intriguing surprises, along with a couple of welcome status quo happenings.

If you read this in time, you might still catch Madison Opera‘s midseason offering at Overture Center’s Capitol Theater, Mark Adamo’s “Little Women.” The 1998 opera is already a modern classic, being produced in more than 70 houses in less than two decades. A viewing recently of the 2001 PBS telecast, available on DVD, quickly revealed why the New York Times called that Houston Grand Opera production “some sort of masterpiece.” Madison opera lovers will not only be treated to the work, but have a new measuring stick for the burgeoning career of conductor Kyle Knox, whose appearances at University Opera and with the Middleton Community Orchestra have already reaped some serious praise. The opera runs Feb. 5 and 7.

From Feb. 12-14, the Madison Symphony Orchestra will also have a guest conductor on the podium, this time Daniel Hege. Falling on Valentine’s Day weekend, this “Music, the food of love …” program opens with the obvious (and welcome) choice of Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The featured concerto, the epic offering from the pen of Beethoven, may not seem as overtly romantic, but the appearance of Alina Ibragimova is by all accounts not to be missed.

If January’s “Final Forte” wasn’t enough for you, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music presents its “Symphony Showcase” Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall. These finalists are a little older than the precocious teens who wowed us last month; all five of them are doctoral candidates, and include a percussionist, violinist, two pianists and a composer. Each will have a movement with the UW Symphony conducted by James Smith.

We did manage to hear January’s wonderful Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra program, and on Feb. 19 in the Capitol Theater, maestro Andrew Sewell is delivering more provocative delights in “Masterworks III.” The soloist this go-round is flutist Dionne Jackson; she is featured in the Bach “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5” and the stimulating concerto of Carl Nielsen. Respighi and a neglected Haydn symphony round out the evening.

The next night should be an incredibly special one–in fact, it’s unprecedented. At 7 p.m. in Overture Hall, the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 50th anniversary. Of course it’s been a long time (decades, in fact) since WYSO was just one ensemble. There are now six, and a few chamber groups. All will be represented, and the evening will be full of musical and guest surprises. It is to be hoped that all of musical Madison helps celebrate an organization that has become the model for youth orchestra programs throughout the U.S.

The month closes with two essential annual events, the first a recital by an artist whom Madison is incredibly blessed to have based here. In case you haven’t heard, pianist Christopher Taylor‘s critical reputation in places far and wide makes it clear he could have a full-time international career if he chose to. Go hear for yourself on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall; you’re guaranteed to learn a few secrets from the works of Bach, Scriabin and Brahms.

And on Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Beverly Taylor and the Madison Symphony Chorus, present their “Memories” concert in Promenade Hall at Overture Center. The concerts feature an array of musical styles, including classical music selections from Brahms and Corigliano, a collection of ethnic tunes, traditional Spirituals and nostalgic songs from the Tin Pan Alley era. Madison Symphony Orchestra Principal Pianist Daniel Lyons accompanies much of the music. See you at the will call window…