Wineke Review: Hometown days at Madison Symphony

Wineke Review: Hometown days at Madison Symphony
Submitted photo
Joshua Biere

Each year the Madison Symphony Orchestra brings in a variety of world-class musicians to highlight the organization’s monthly subscription concerts.

Some of them performed here before they were world-renowned, a testament to conductor John DeMain’s ability to spot talent and bring it here.

Nevertheless, my favorite concert of the year usually is the one featuring members of the MSO itself.

The March weekend’s concerts feature concertmaster Naha Greenholtz, who played Servei Prokofiev’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra,” J.J. Koh, principal clarinet, who played Claude Debussy’s “Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra,” and Joshua Biere, principal tubist, who played Ralph Vaughn Williams “Tuba Concerto in F minor.”

One guess as to who received the most sustained standing ovation.

We all knew, deep down, that a tuba was good for more than the “Beer Barrel Polka.”

But Biere does things with a tuba that I don’t believe a pipe organ can quite match. When he goes low, he goes really low.

Not only that, but he looks like a tuba player ought to look, jolly and seemingly mystified as to why a couple thousand people would be standing and applauding him wildly.

Not that Greenholtz and Koh were chopped liver. Their performances were on par with any we’ve seen from visiting musicians, which isn’t totally surprising because when they aren’t playing here they are visiting musicians.

In fact one of the striking things about the biographies of the three is just how much they get around.

She is concertmaster of both the MSO and of the Quad Cities Symphony. She is artistic director for Davenport, Iowa’s summer chamber music festival and, this summer she will be guest concertmaster of the National Ballet of Canada.

Biere is principal tubist here and with the Kenosha Symphony. He performs with the new Chicago Composer’s Orchestra and has a studio of more than 30 tuba and euphonium students.

Koh also plays with the Milwaukee Symphony and is a founding member of the Arundo Donax Reed Quintet, a winner of the Fischoff National Chamber Music competition. He is also on the music faculty of Indiana University.

These three are on stage every month, part of the symphony that makes the city proud – but was enjoyable to see them spotlighted this weekend, as well.

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