Wisconsin’s rich musical landscape favors the classics, and this year opportunities abound. Whether your tastes run to full symphony orchestras performing with crowd-pleasing thunder or elegant string quartets rendering delicate musical miniatures, there are options for you throughout central and southern Wisconsin. Here is a look at some of the more prominent ensembles and their seasons.
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
A bevy of Beethoven, a rasher of Rachmaninoff and double-doses of Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky mark what promises to be a titanic, crowd-pleasing season for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Artistic Director Edo de Waart takes the baton for 11 of MSO’s 18 scheduled concerts, conducting Mahler’s ‘Symphony No. 1 in D Major” – also known as “The Titan” – (Oct. 14-15) and his “Symphony No. 9 in D Major” (May 25-26). The maestro also leads MSO’s all-Beethoven opener featuring the composer’s famous “Fifth Symphony” (Sept. 23-24), Stravinsky’s “Le sacre du primtemps” (The Rite of Spring) (Jan. 27-28), Debussy’s “La mer” (April 27-28), and “The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38,” Sir Edward Elgar’s heaven-stirring affirmation of faith with the MSO Chorus (June 1-3).
And if that weren’t enough, MSO Conductor Emeritus Andreas Delfs returns to lead the orchestra and chorus in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in all its sacred and profane glory (Jan. 20-22).
Uihlein Hall, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee; tickets (414) 291-7605; www.mso.org
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Virtuosity, variety and a wealth of guest soloists populate Madison Symphony Orchestra’s eight concerts this season. Artistic director John DeMain’s eclectic programming mixes contemporary with classical, the unfamiliar with the tried-and-true to create a winning repertoire.
Pianist Andre Watts opens the season with Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A minor” on a program that also includes Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” (Sept. 16-18). The season continues, featuring cellist Lynn Harrell performing Édouard Lalo’s “Cello Concerto in D minor” (Oct. 14-16), violinist Midori performing Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” (Nov. 11-13), violinist Augustin Hadelich performing Prokofiev’s “Violin Concerto No. 2” (Jan. 20-22); pianist Philippe Bianconi performing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4” (March 30-April 1); and even the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet performing Rodrigo’s “Concierto Andaluz” (March 9-11).
DeMain and MSO closes the season with an all-Gershwin program, including highlights from “Porgy and Bess,” a work for which the conductor is well known.
Overture Hall, Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., Madison; tickets (608) 258-4141; www.madisonsymphony.org.
Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
Pops and the classics mix in the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra’s six season concerts. With FVSO’s performance of the hits of Pink Floyd already behind it, music director Brian Groner and the orchestra are ready to get a little more serious in their mix of film scores, show tunes and Celtic rhythms, along with dashes of Strauss, Mozart and Mahler.
The party starts with guest violinist Philippe Quint performing film music composer Eric Korngold’s “Violin Concerto in D Major” on a program that includes Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra” (Oct. 1). “Three Phantoms in Concert” helps usher in the Halloween season with music from “Miss Saigon,” “Les Miserables” and, of course, “The Phantom of the Opera” (Oct. 29). Young soloists Kitsho Hosotani, violin, and David Hou, piano, test their mettle on Saint-Saens’ “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28” and Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat, S 124” (Feb. 4). Irish and Scottish traditional instruments dominate St. Patrick’s Day festivities with “Celtic Celebrations” (March 17).
FVSO closes its 45th season fittingly with Mahler’s “Symphony No. 1 in D Major.”
Fox Valley Performing Arts Center, 400 W. College Ave., Appleton; tickets (920) 730-3760; www.foxvalleysymphony.com
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
The orchestra known for its summer outdoor Concerts on the Square heads indoors this fall for its Masterworks series. Maestro Andrew Sewell leads the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) in an inventive five-concert series highlighted by both local and internationally known soloists.
Pianist Ilya Yakushev opens the season with Prokofiev’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10” (Oct. 7). Cellist Amit Peled pays his third WCO visit to perform Boccherini’s rarely heard “Cello Concerto in B-flat major, G482,” aka, the “Grutzmacher version.”(Jan. 13). Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky appears with a (nearly) all Beethoven program, including the “Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68” (The Pastoral) and “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61” (Feb. 24). UW music professor and concert pianist Christopher Taylor solos on Irish composer John Field’s rarely heard “Piano Concerto No. 4 in E-flat Major, H2” (March 16).
WCO and a brace of soloists will close the Masterworks series with Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125” (Choral) featuring the much-loved “Ode to Joy” (April 13).
Capitol Theater, Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., Madison; tickets (608) 258-4141; www.wcoconcerts.org
Also of Note
The Wisconsin Philharmonic (formerly the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra) this season is performing “Tour de France,” its all-things-French program at venues throughout Milwaukee’s western suburbs, starting with a Sept. 24 season tailgate kickoff party on Carroll University’s Sneeden House lawn. The six-concert series, which ends May 6, will include Debussy’s “La Mer” and “Clair de Lune,” Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” Faure’s “Pelleas and Melisande,” Ravel’s “Spanish Symphony” and Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” For details, venues and tickets visit www.wisconsinphilharmonic.org.
The Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra offers a repertoire of six concerts in its 2011-2012 series, starting off with a guest appearance by UW-Madison music professor and pianist Christopher Taylor performing Liszt’s “Totentanz” (Oct. 8). The season continues with guest clarinetist James Smith performing Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto” as part of a program otherwise themed “South of the Border” (Nov. 12); pianist Li-shan Hung performing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5,” the so-called “Emperor” (Feb. 4); a tribute to the film music of John Williams (“Star Wars,” “Saving Private Ryan”), with violinist Debbie Williamson soloing during a suite of numbers from “Schindler’s List” (March 10); and a season closer of Broadway melodies from top shows (May 12). For details and tickets visit www.sheboyagnsymphony.org.
The Green Bay Symphony Orchestra this year introduces new conductor Donato Cabrera with Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3” (Organ) plus a little Dukas, Dvorak and Gershwin (Oct. 8); Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” and Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Winds” (Nov. 12); Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 4” and Strauss’ “Voices of Spring” (Feb. 11); as well as Christmas holiday programming and tributes to Irish rock and the music from Disney films and shows. WCO Maestro Andrew Sewell substitutes for Cabrera during several of the performances. For details and tickets visit www.greenbaysymphony.com.
The Fine Arts Quartet, founded in Chicago in 1946 and affiliated with the UWM since 1963, is one of the world’s oldest touring and recording chamber ensembles. Of the remaining 29 dates in its 2011-2012 performance calendar, many are in Europe and only six are in the Milwaukee area.
Upcoming engagements and locations include: UWM – Haydn “Quartet Op.71-2,” Bernard Herrmann “Echoes,” Dvorak “Piano Quintet” (Sept. 25); Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, Brookfield – Mozart “Quartet KV 575,” Shostakovich “Quartet No.1,” Schumann “Quartet Op.41-1” (Oct. 16); Milwaukee Catholic Home – Mozart “Quartet KV 575,” Shostakovich “Quartet No.1,” Schumann “Quartet Op.41-1” (Oct. 19); UWM – Mozart “Quartet KV 421,” Bartok “Quartet No.3, Grieg Quartet” (Nov. 6); UWM – Saint-Saens “Quartet No.2”; Brahms: Schumann “Variations, Op.9”; Brahms “Piano Quintet” (Jan. 29); UWM – an all Saint-Saens program featuring “Piano Quartet in E major,” Piano Quartet, Op.41,” “Piano Quintet, Op.14” (March 4).
From Feb. 5-12, the group will perform at sea on the “Fine Arts Quartet and Friends” Caribbean cruise. For details visit www.fineartsquartet.org.
The Pro Arte Quartet, artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this celebrates 100 years of existence this year, making it the world’s oldest continuously performing string quartet. The ensemble began as the Belgian Quatour Pro Arte, but in 1940 changed its affiliation to the UW when Nazi tanks rolled through Belgium, making it impossible for the musicians to return home. The quartet, which was performing in Madison when its homeland was invaded, has been based in the Capital City ever since.
To celebrate its centennial year, the Pro Arte Quartet has commissioned original works from four contemporary composers, all of which will premiere during the 2011-12 season in Mills Concert Hall in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus. The works and their world premiere dates include:
- Walter Mays’ “String Quartet No. 2” (Oct. 22)
- Paul Schoenfeld’s “Piano Quintet” (Nov. 19)
- William Bolcom’s “Piano Quintet No. 2” (March 24)
- John Harbison’s “String Quartet No. 5” (April 21)
The world premiere will be accompanied by master classes held at the UW and lectures by top classical music experts. All events, including the concerts, are free and open to the public. For details visit http://proartequartet.org.