A Journey Through Madison's Classical Music Scene
Oct 18, 2011
01:45 PM
Classically Speaking

Pro Arte: Rhymes with “Go Party!”

Pro Arte: Rhymes with “Go Party!”

 Madison is a town that sure knows how to party: From Badgerville pregames at Union South to post-concert receptions at classical concerts, every kind of fan loves to celebrate. But now we have a chance to set a new standard and revel in a series of events unprecedented in the history of music—the 100th season of our very own Pro Arte Quartet.

Of course, the original members came from Belgium, but in a stunning coincidence of inspiration and circumstance, the University of Wisconsin–Madison leapt at the chance to make them a resident ensemble in May, 1940. The idea was already in its gestation stage, when Hitler’s invasion of Belgium—while the Pro Arte was in the midst of a series of concerts at the “new” Union Theater—hastened the historic decision.

Today’s foursome of David Perry and Suzanne Beia, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp has been together for sixteen years, but they will celebrate the century-long legacy of the Pro Arte Quartet with a series of four world premieres. While having the opportunity to experience important new music would be special under any circumstances (at free concerts, mind you), there are nearly as many related special events this season as there would be candles on a Pro Arte cake.

This week the festivities begin with a Wednesday lecture by composer Walter Mays, whose String Quartet No. 2 is the world premiere at Saturday night’s concert. His talk, “My Recent Music,” is free and open to the public in Room 1351 in the Mosse Humanities Building at 3:30 p.m.

For those who can’t wait to hear the new work, Thursday morning’s rehearsal is open to the public, from 9 a.m. to noon in Mills Hall. On Friday, guest lecturer and celebrated author Joseph Horowitz will speak at 4 p.m. in Room 2650 in the Mosse Humanities Building, on “Wagnerism and the New American Woman,” an event that is also part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.

One of Horowitz’ best known books is Artists in Exile, and that will be the topic of his Saturday afternoon lecture at 3 p.m. at the Pyle Center. The concert itself begins at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, but at 7, audience members can hear from both Mays and Horowitz. When the music begins, the Pro Arte will play Bloch’s “Prelude,” Barber’s String Quartet No. 1 (that’s where the famous “Adagio for Strings” comes from, and the original Pro Arte premiered in Rome in 1936), and then the world premiere of Mays’ String Quartet No. 2. The second half will be devoted to one of the greatest of all works, chamber music or otherwise, Schubert’s Quintet, with guest cellist Bonnie Hampton.

And if this party invitation is just a bit too much, you can sort it out at proartetquartet.org.  Portions of the concert will be played the next day at 12:30 p.m. at “Live from the Chazen”—part of the museum’s own celebration of their new wing. If you miss either of the live versions, the Saturday night concert will be available a day later at music.wisc.edu/calendar. Click on calendar events and click again on the loudspeaker icon.

Photo (of Karp, Beia, Chisholm and Perry) by Rick Langer.

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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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