A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Jun 28, 2012
07:01 PM
Classically Speaking

WCO Squared: Light Classics, Served Hot

WCO Squared: Light Classics, Served Hot

During the indoor concert season, one frequently hopes for a sizzling concert to distract from the throes of a Wisconsin winter. But when the 29th Concerts on the Square opened Wednesday night, music director Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra couldn’t have added a degree to the sweltering evening. Then again, cold fried chicken, chilled chablis and all the other fixings still tasted a little better with sides of Dvorak and Grieg.

Sewell dubbed this first of his summery six-pack programs “Pastoral Dances.” The maestro is rightly known — and genuinely appreciated — for his deftly surprising programming year round; the chance to mix and match even more for Concerts on the Square must be a particular pleasure.

Eschewing full symphonies and concertos, the WCO breezed through delights from Elgar and Mendelssohn, before introducing their newest young friend, Kartik Papatia. This year’s “Young Artist Concerto Competition” winner just finished his sophomore year in Mequon, and set about to prove that, while not quite old enough to drive a car, he can certainly navigate the rigors of the Dvorak Cello Concerto.

Playing just the first movement of this greatest of all cello concertos, Papatia revealed occasional impetuousness (not surprisingly), but it was also no wonder that he put us on notice that he is a talent worth keeping an ear on.

The first of Dvorak’s “Legends” was a second half highlight, along with a perennial dance favorite that had most of the auditors swaying in time: Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Tales of the Vienna Woods.”

The dance theme was concluded with one of those collaborations that work best outdoors. The Trinity Irish Dancers took up four locations, six to a platform, and bounced their curls and kicked up their heels to Hardiman’s “Lord of the Dance.” On any other occasion the closing comment might have been “no sweat.” But if the night made the audience work harder than usual, no one seemed to mind. 

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

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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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