Tom Strini
Milwaukee Scribe

Bill Theisen, Frank Almond, Piano Arts, Prints

MKE arts news: Theisen to Iowa, PianoArts winner returns, Almond & Wolfram's new CD, and print shows abound.

By - Mar 21st, 2013 10:04 pm
Bill Theisen, artistic director of the Skylight Opera Theatre.

Bill Theisen, artistic director of the Skylight Opera Theatre.

1. Bill Theisen, in the home stretch of a long and successful tenure as artistic director of the Skylight Music Theatre, called to say that he will join the faculty of the University of Iowa School of Music as director of opera this fall.

“I was planning on free-lancing next year and had a number of things lined up,” Theisen said. “Now I have to take a close look at the calendar and see what I can do.”

Theisen will continue to travel and work in professional productions, but he will have to be in Iowa City when the school stages its two full opera productions each academic year. He should feel at home in Iowa right away: John Muriello, an old friend and frequent Skylight performer, heads the voice division there.

Theisen’s last Skylight show as AD will be the formidable Porgy and Bess, May 17-June 9.

Sahun "Sam" Hong, at the 2012 Piano Arts Competition.

Sahun “Sam” Hong, at the 2012 Piano Arts Competition.

2. The PianoArts biennial competition skips 2013, but the organization is still busy. PianoArts presented Christopher Taylor in a remarkable Messiaen recital in December, and at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 24), 2012 competition winner Sahun (Sam, to his friends) Hong will give a recital at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center. Tickets are $27 online or by phone, 262 781-9520.

Hong’s recital is part of the prize for winning last year. Though just 16, Hong is on the fast track in the business. He is one of 28 Steinway Young Artists, has won several prizes in addition to PianoArts and has appeared as soloist with orchestras all over Texas, his home state. He entered Texas Christian University at age 11 as a double major in music and mathematics, but turned his focus to music. He finished his Bachelor of Music summa cum laude. Hong continues to study with his TCD teacher, John Owings.

Hong’s PianoArts victory lap program: Beethoven, Sonata Opus 10, No. 2; Leon Kirchner’s “Interlude II”; Ravel’s Sonatine and Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Opus 12.

I'm listening to my copy now.

I’m listening to my copy now.

3. On Feb. 25 at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Frankly Music, violinist Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram celebrated an upcoming CD release, A Violin’s Life. That concert/CD release event included a good deal of the music on the disc: Julius Röntgen’s Sonata No. 2, Karol Lipinski’s Caprice Opus 29 and Robert Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 Opus 121. All that music is closely associated with the legendary Lipinski Stradivari violin, which Almond plays on indefinite loan from an anonymous Milwaukee-area owner.

At the concert, Almond (also concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony) and Wolfram did not play Tartini’s Sonata in G minor (“The Devil’s Trill”), composed by the first known owner of this instrument. “Devil’s Trill” is the first track on the disc, and it is beautifully played and recorded. This disc, on the Avie label, is terrific all around. I know you’ve never heard of Julius Röntgen, whose son owned the Lipinski Strad, but trust me, this is well worth hearing, especially in this intensely committed performance.

The official release date is April 9. Check the Avie Records site for further information or to purchase online.

4. As our industrious Kat Murrell has reported, the Southern Graphics Council International convention is in town and has sparked print shows in galleries, museums and, now, a pizza restaurant. I want to bring two of them to your attention:

Raoul Deal's "Shopkeeper," soon to hang in my house.

Raoul Deal’s “Shopkeeper,” soon to hang in my house.

Raoul Deal’s large-scale woodcuts, at the United Community Center Latino Arts Gallery, are knockouts for their sheer visual impact and impressive craft, and they boil with social-justice fervor. But they come off as frank rather than earnest and committed yet open rather than doctrinaire. By the way,  the red dot on the label by “The Shopkeeper” is my red dot. Bought it.

Our restaurateur friends at Via on Downer, ever committed to the arts, have jumped onto the Southern Graphics print mania. Via is showing prints by 19 local artists, all of them associated with MIAD or UWM.  Show’s title: Cream City Pulp.

And speaking of woodcuts, this one’s flattering, isn’t it?


Strini, working hard at TCD World Headquarters.



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