Winter winds no match for classical music explosion

Winter winds no match for classical music explosion
con vivo! … music with life

Madison music lovers, resist the urge to hibernate: Our local classical groups will waste no time in rolling out an array of events—any one of which should inspire us to brave the elements of January.

First up is the too-often-overlooked con vivo! … music with life series. Now in its fourteenth season, the group offers its usual invigorating programming mix with Noah’s Ark, a whimsically named evening of duets for all manner of paired instruments. Held at the First Congregational Church of Christ across from Camp Randall, the January 15 event (which starts at 7:30 p.m.) includes, as always, a great opportunity to mix with the musicians afterwards over light refreshments.

One week later on January 22, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra resumes its Masterworks series at the Capitol Theater. Maestro Andrew Sewell is up to his usual tricks, mixing Mozart and Schubert with Shostakovich and Poulenc. The soloist in the latter two is pianist Adam Neiman—yet another astonishingly gifted artist who should be a household name. Curtain goes up at 8 p.m.

Usually held in March, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Final Forte lands on January 29—and for many local music lovers, it ranks as the best free classical event of the year. Four high school students remain from the earlier rounds of the Bolz Young Artists’ Competition. Now they each play a concerto movement with the MSO in Overture Hall—and the event is broadcast and telecast on WPT and WPR. Ranging in age from fifteen to seventeen, the finalists represent a huge chunk of Wisconsin: Sun Prairie, Madison, Green Bay and Brookfield. The repertoire is both traditional (Grieg, Sibelius and Mendelssohn) and exotic. After all, when is the last time you heard a marimba concerto by the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness? Again, there is no charge for seats, but you do have to call or register for a ticket.

Two years ago the UW–Madison School of Music launched what has already become a richly anticipated tradition: their presentation of a Schubertiade. Franz Schubert’s birthday is January 31, but the composer often celebrated his talent throughout the year by inviting musical friends to perform his works all through the night. When not performing, the others lounged on sofas and chairs—and indeed audience members this year will find a selection of comfy furniture on stage. Martha Fischer and Bill Lutes lead an irresistible mixture of the cherished along with some hidden gems, and soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine is a very special guest as well. This year’s event is January 30.

As we turn to February, Madison Opera returns to the Capitol Theater for yet another fairly recent American opera that has quickly established itself in nearly three dozen opera houses. The New York Times hailed Mark Adamo’s Little Women as “a masterpiece” at its 1998 premiere, and with just two performances (February 5 and 7), it’s not to be missed. An additional incentive is to assess the growing career of Kyle Knox, guest conducting in place of John DeMain. Knox was featured in an online extra last fall by yours truly, and he continues to reap praise from local critics and audiences alike.