A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Aug 18, 2011
11:31 AM
Classically Speaking

Curtain Up!

Curtain Up!

The lights are down, the curtain is up, the audience is (mostly) seated—with cell phones off—and the maestro strides on stage. We are ready to begin at last.

No, not my new blog … the 2011–12 season of music in Madison.

Of course, I’m thrilled to have been added to the Madison Magazine blogroll, but while I’ll post the occasional previews, interviews and CD/DVD reviews, the real excitement is in being immersed in the incredibly rich musical life of Madison and sharing it with a new audience.

The key word is “excitement”—the feeling that can only be experienced by sitting in a hall with great musicians creating and re-creating artistry before our eyes and ears. I still remember that during my graduate studies in the late 1970s at the New England Conservatory, we sold bumper stickers that said “Live Music Is Best.” And that was before CDs and iPods and everything in between that changed the way we listen to music, but I still believe what the sticker said is more true than ever.

It’s been ten years this month since I moved to the Madison area from Los Angeles and its environs, but it wasn’t until a year ago that I really began to appreciate all that Madison offers in great music. There were more than a couple of times last season I wished I could have cloned myself.

That’s the set-up for what I hope this blog will be: trying to keep up with musical Madison and capturing enough of the artistic excitement here to inspire some readers to get out and catch the next great concert. The initial plan is to both recap what I’ve seen recently and give you a “heads up” on what to hear for yourself, or provide a preview/interview piece. When it’s “slow” (!) I’ll have occasional CD/DVD reviews.

As far as I’m concerned, the end of August is not the end of the summer season but the beginning of the fall season. Either way you look at it, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival is the perfect dovetailing of the two: the “barn” of John and Rose Mary Harbison is rustic intimacy at its best, and the artistry often surpasses even the tranquil beauty of the farm off of Highway 19.

This year’s edition includes a two-piano recital by Robert Levin and Ya-Fei Chuang (August 24 and 25), instrumental Mozart (August 27 and 28), a jazz program featuring songs of Burton Lane and Jule Styne (two performances each on August 31 and September 1), and closes with Bach on September 3 and 4. As usual, a couple of these events are already sold out or have limited seating, so check out the website immediately: tokencreekfestival.org.

I’m going to try and catch each of the programs, but no matter what I write, it’ll be a whole lot more fun if you hear it for yourself! See you there …

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About This Blog

Years before I contributed my first classical review to the Los Angeles Times in 1988, I started a class in music appreciation for adults that had one aim: to put a few cracks in the “ivory tower elitism” I found pervasive in the classical music world since my boyhood days. Whether as a critic, program annotator or band director, that goal has never changed. After all, Mozart and Beethoven and the gang wrote their music for people like you—not critics or professors!

After growing up in the suburbs of New York City, and spending twenty years in and around Los Angeles, the last twelve years here leave me more amazed than ever at the musical riches of Madison. I’m a cheerleader at heart, because I always think more people would become classical fans if they’d give it a chance—but I’m also quick to tell you when you’re not getting your money’s worth. Classically Speaking brings you as much news and as many reviews as possible, and I hope you’ll join me for a fabulous musical journey.

–  Greg Hettmansberger
Follow Greg on Twitter @ghettmansberger

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