Three Great Chamber Concerts

First-class musicians performing in very intimate settings, all in the next 10 days.

By - Jan 28th, 2015 04:16 pm
Peter Thomas and Madeline Kabat. Photo courtesy of Peter Thomas.

Peter Thomas and Madeline Kabat. Photo courtesy of Peter Thomas.

What is the ideal way to hear classical music? The gold standard may be a sumptuous feast with your family and guests, including pleasant conversation over wine with a world-renowned soprano who stays the weekend at your English country estate. Retire to the library for a private recital by her for all the guests – including the downstairs staff.

Actually, that concert evening at Downton Abbey did not end all that well, but you get the idea. Chamber music began as privileged small-scale events in the homes of the titled gentry. Recreating those moments can be a difficult matter of finance and logistics in Milwaukee today.

But as it happens, in the next two weeks or so, there will some fantastic chamber concerts, in very intimate settings, that I can recommend highly. They’re the kind of concerts that present classical music at its most sublime.

Clarinetist Todd Levy

Todd Levy. Photo from MSO.

Todd Levy. Photo from MSO.

The Grammy-winning First Chair clarinetist for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra may not be visible at its concerts until he stands from the second row of the woodwind section to be recognized. But tomorrow night, January 29th, he will be entertaining 30 guests in a sold-out solo clarinet recital in a condo high above downtown Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Symphony has been sponsoring the Lynn Chappy Salon series for a decade. The “events provide a unique opportunity to meet and socialize with special guest artists, MSO musicians and fellow music enthusiasts. This season promises memorable performances of outstanding artistry, each followed by discussion and a special Q&A session,” as the promo notes explain. The ticket price (discounted for young adults) includes performance plus hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

Unless there are cancellations, you can’t get tickets to this concert. But Levy will also stand stage-front at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on this Friday and Saturday evening as featured soloist in Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto.

Cello Duets at Villa Terrace

Peter Thomas, a youthful addition to the Milwaukee Symphony cello section, has made his mark as a member of the Arcus String Quartet and unexpectedly as featured electric cellist in a popular rock band – I Am Not a Pilot. Peter and his fiancee, Madeline Kabat will play two sets of classical selections for cello duo featuring music of Luigi Boccherini, David Popper and Reinhold Glière Sunday morning, February 1st, in the restored Villa Terrace. Kabat performed in Milwaukee recently as a part of the Madelle Duo (violin/cello). She is every bit as good as Thomas and is starting her professional career in Madison and on the west coast.

This performance is part of the Café Sopra Mare concert series at Villa Terrace and you needn’t be that formal about it. Bring a book, the Sunday crossword or your knitting. Purchase pastry and coffee at the cafe in the back room and join 50 music lovers at small terrace tables in the living room of this Italian villa overlooking Lake Michigan. (But unlike coffee house concerts, this venue is not a place for conversation during the concert itself.)

After the concert check out the exotic art installation on this small museum’s second floor. Jennifer Angus “is best known for her installations composed of thousands of insects pinned directly to walls in repeating patterns that reference both textiles and wallpaper,” the exhibition description notes. It’s “a kind of over-the-top Victorian fancy, filled with bell jars, cases and dioramas that will cause the viewer to reconsider their relationship with both insects and nature.” The exhibit closes February 8th.

Pianist Carmen Knoll

Carmen Knoll. Photo from PianoArts.

Carmen Knoll. Photo from PianoArts.

Aged 17, Knoll has already been recognized as a world-class pianist as she enters her undergraduate studies. She participated in the pre-college division of The Juilliard School of Music and Arts in New York. In the summer of 2014, she won the biennial 2014 PianoArts North American Competition held in Milwaukee. Later this February, she will compete with 23 others for a $75,000 prize at the quinquennial National Chopin Competition.

On Sunday, February 8th, Knoll will perform at the Polish Center of Wisconsin, which along with and PianoArts, will host an afternoon recital devoted to music of Chopin. Knoll will perform “a technically, emotionally, and physically demanding program that includes two ballades, two etudes, a waltz, nocturne, sonata, mazurka, the Andante Spianato et Grand Polonaise in E-flat major, and the Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major,” the concert description notes This marathon recital, held in the “great hall” of the Polish Center (which is modeled after a Polish manor house), will include two breaks catered by Polish Center volunteers – an hors d’oeuvres break to be followed by a dessert break.

The PianoArts competition has developed a reputation for nurturing young artists – providing support and education as a part of the event. In subsequent years, the winners return to Milwaukee for performances in schools and other venues. (The PianoArts event should not be confused with the annual Chopin competition for younger pianists at the too-often noisy outdoor venue of Polish Fest.)

For more information:

-Lynn Chappy Salon Series – (February 26 and May 12 tickets still available. )
$75 per person (includes performance, hors d’oeuvres & cocktails)
$45 for young professionals (45 and under)

-Café Sopra Mare, Villa Terrace
First Sunday of the Month – 10:00a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Music Starts at 10:30 a.m.
First Sunday of the month, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., music starts at 10:30.
2220 N. Terrace Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202 (414) 271-3656
No reservations. Admission to the Museum is required. $7/Adults, $5/Seniors and Students. Coffee, tea and fresh pastries are available a la carte.

-“Chopin and Champagne” featuring Carmen Knoll
Polish Center of Wisconsin is located at 6941 South 68th Street, Franklin. Call 414-529-2140 for tickets.
Online at
Or at
Tickets: Adults $20. Students $10. 

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