May concerts bloom with variety

Orchestras close their indoor seasons this month
May concerts bloom with variety
Photo courtesy of Overture Center
"On Your Feet!," a musical based on the Emilio and Gloria Estefan story, comes May 15-20 to Overture Hall at the Overture Center for the Arts.

Madison Symphony Orchestra

Madison Symphony Orchestra music director John DeMain traditionally closes his season with a major work featuring the MSO Chorus, and this season’s choice is a real diamond in the rough: Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass.” The title refers to an ancient language that predates the Cyrillic alphabet which became the written language of the Russian people. The 1920s work brims with compelling harmonies and unique interpretations of the liturgy. A quartet of vocal soloists joins the chorus. The first half features Mozart, particularly the Piano Concerto No. 22 with soloist Christopher O’Riley. Most widely known as host of NPR’s “From the Top,” O’Riley has maintained a performing career of the highest caliber, as well as an incredibly eclectic one. Performances are May 4 at 7:30, May 5 at 8 and May 6 at 2:30.

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

Andrew Sewell plays it straight by programming the final Masterworks concert for his Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. The menu is all Beethoven, opening with one of his most delightful overtures, “King Stephen.” Pianist John O’Conor returns as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 3, and the evening closes with that most dynamic canvas, “Symphony No. 5.” It will be fascinating to hear how Sewell’s lean orchestral machine illuminates that familiar masterpiece. One performance, Friday May 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater.

Greg Zelek, Organ Recital

Geg Zelek, the new curator of the Overture Hall organ, replaced the estimable Samuel Hutchinson. Zelek now closes a series of recitals by visiting artists by putting on his own. He’ll feature some of the greatest masterworks written for the “king of instruments” by Franck, J.S. Bach and Liszt. Then he’ll have some fun with his own arrangement of Rossini’s Overture to “William Tell.” One performance on May 11 at 7:30.

Salon Piano Series

Farley’s House of Pianos will host the final event of this season’s Salon Piano Series at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. John O’Conor follows his appearance with WCO the previous night by playing a carefully crafted recital on one of Farley’s lovingly restored keyboards. O’Conor did the same thing a couple of seasons ago, and it was quite the treat to hear him, first with the chamber orchestra, and then in the more intimate setting of Farley’s showroom. This time the lineup includes Haydn, O’Conor’s Irish countryman John Fields, Schubert and Beethoven. As always, a delectable reception follows, with the chance for attendees to speak with the artist.

Broadway show “On Your Feet” at Overture

Broadway at Overture continues with something new to local audiences, “On Your Feet.” The story of how Emilio and Gloria Estefan broke through to the top of the pop world — then nearly lost everything — and made a courageous comeback. The show is filled with their iconic high-energy hits. Certainly the production team of the original Broadway run has a serious pedigree: director Jerry Mitchell has two Tony Awards and also piloted “Kinky Boots” (which came to Madison not long ago). The choreography is by Sergio Trujillo, whose work was seen here earlier this year in “Jersey Boys.” Eight performances, May 15-20.

Con vivo…music with life!

The date is June 2, but we don’t want this event to fall through the cracks. This local music fan must confess it’s been too long since I enjoyed the terrific music making and camaraderie of con vivo…music with life! The featured works at the spring concert are the tug-at-your-heartstrings “Romance for Violin” of Dvorak, and arguably the greatest chamber work of all time, “Quintet for Clarinet and Strings” of Brahms. Okay, so I’m a biased clarinetist. Just go and hear it for yourself, then argue with me at the reception afterwards. Saturday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church.

Greg Hettmansberger writes about jazz, opera and classical music for