10 Days of Spirited Music

Annual holiday concerts at Wisconsin Conservatory headlined by Chicago Harp Quartet.

By - Nov 14th, 2014 03:37 pm
Sonora Slocum, Principal flutist, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Sonora Slocum, Principal flutist, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Each year, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music transforms the Conservatory’s historic mansion “into a wonderland replete with thousands of lights, sparkling trees and stunning décor. Custom-decorated Christmas trees will be auctioned in support of the Conservatory’s community music education programs.” The event, running from November 13-23, includes an extensive and varied concert series as well. Each day will feature student recitals, jazz or classical concerts. In such a comprehensive package, there is a danger that one will lose sight of the trees for the forest. This preview offers a guided tour of the forest of classical concerts.

Flutist Sonora Slocum, joined at times by pianist Jeannie Yu, will offer a recital Sunday, November 16th at 3 PM. The recital will feature works by Frank MartinBela BartokSamuel Barber and an excellent example of Oliver Messaien’s unique birdsong – La Merle Noir. CPE Bach’s Solo Sonata in A Minor will be featured. As his patron, Frederick the Great, played the flute, CPE Bach contributed extensively to the flute repertory.

Slocum joined the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as principal flutist two years ago. Although recognized immediately for further strengthening a strong symphony wind section, many remember her stunning performance at the front of the stage last spring when she played J.S. Bach’s challenging Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor with the MSO. Slocum has since recorded a chamber version of that work – available on her website.

Slocum’s recital will be a rare chance to hear a virtuoso performer in an intimate setting.

Philomusica, the resident quartet at the Wisconsin Conservatory, will offer its first concert of the season on Monday, November 17th at 7:30 PM. The quartet continues their survey of Beethoven quartets with the String Quartet No 1 in F major, op 18, no 1. This work includes early signs of the Romantic era classical music marked by an Adagio section marked “affettuoso ed appasionato,” said to be inspired by the tomb scene from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Franz Schubert’s String Quartet in A minor, D 667 “Rosamunde” will highlight this concert. Schubert’s quartets are recognized for unforgettable romantic melodies. Schubert borrows liberally from melodies from several of his earlier works – including incidental music to a dramatic play that gives the work its name. Nearing the end of his life, Schubert’s work is profound, but closes on an optimistic note. Philomusica violinist Sasha Mandel suggests that this was Schubert’s final legacy: “looking at songs that were so meaningful (to him)… very soul-touching, in a personal way.”

Two lovely short works – Impromptu for Strings by Jean Sibelius and an elegy to a close friend, Christantemi (The Chrysanthemums), by Giacomo Puccini – complete the program.

Mandl acknowledges that there is “a melancholic connection across the works” but this atmosphere “brings an intimate connection with these composers.” Expect a carefully researched and sensitively interpreted concert.

Pianists Stephanie Jacob and Theresa Drews will offer an concert of 4-hand piano music on Tuesday, November 18th at 7:30 PM. Once the rage in 19th century households eager to show off their newly acquired pianos, 4-hand recitals are rare events in Milwaukee these days. The program will feature Ma Mère L’Oye (Mother Goose Suite) written first for piano duo by Maurice Ravel. The concert concludes several adaptations – Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to Il Barbiere di Sivilglia, Franz Schubert’s Lebensstürme (Storms of Life), Op. 144 and Antonin Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. Although Ma Mère L’Oye is a tender work written for children, Slavonic Dances should fill the hall with bright and raucous dance.

The Chicago Harp Quartet - L to R; Kelsey Molinari, Emily Ann Granger, Marguerite Lynn Williams, Cathy Litaker

The Chicago Harp Quartet – L to R; Kelsey Molinari, Emily Ann Granger, Marguerite Lynn Williams, Cathy Litaker

The Chicago Harp Quartet will perform on Sunday, November 23rd at 3 PM. Works for this concert have not been announced, but this will not be wedding reception music. The Quartet describes its mission  as “building bridges between traditional chamber music and the unique harp ensemble by commissioning and creating new works as well as transforming classics.” The Quartet’s repertory includes BachVivaldiJohn AdamsHandelGrieg and others. A generous selection of their performances can be found online. The sound of four harps offers a rich ambience – a unique way to interpret the classics.

Full details of these concerts and the rest of the schedule (including a performance by the resident jazz ensemble We Six) can be found online. All of the above concerts cost $35 for premium seating and $25 for the rest. Student discounts are available. Reserve concert tickets today by calling 414-276-5760. Complimentary parking will be available at Milwaukee Eye Care, 1684 N. Prospect Ave., located one block north of the Conservatory, for the evening (not the Sunday afternoon) concerts.

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