The coming season of performance events at the Wisconsin Union Theater meets or exceeds the high standard set by this series, now in its 82nd year. Each season director Michael Goldberg has a difficult task finding attractions that not only fit the available budget but also mesh well with the presentations of the symphony, the opera, the chamber orchestra, the university, the Civic Center and smaller music organizations in the area. "We present seven high-end events per year," Goldberg said, "working with our fellow organizations to try to find a good flow across the season. We also try to make sure that the calibre justifies the necessary financial commitment for subscribers and individual ticket purchasers."
In both the Union's Concert Series (the seven-event lineup Goldberg refers to) and the Perfornmance Series (six events that are more popular, less classical in their thrust), the 2001-2002 season promises the excitement of re-experiencing well-known artists and of discovering unfamiliar, emerging talents and genres.
Three elements that always do well with Madison audiences are pianists, violinists, and chamber music. So it's not surprising that the Concert Series includes two pianists. Alan Feinberg (Oct. 5), whom I've not heard before, promises to be interesting, having built his growing reputation on programs that encompass the whole piano repertory. András Schiff (Mar. 8) is one of the superstar masters of the instrument. I last heard him here in a remarkable concert with Peter Serkin and am looking forward to his thoughtfully balanced program, which ranges from Haydn to Janacek.
Violinist Olmar Oliveira (Oct. 26), renowned for his Apollonian restraint, last heard here in the Beethoven concerto with the MSO, will return for his second appearance on the Union series, presenting a program yet to be announced.
Very few string quartets can compete with the Emerson Quartet (Dec. 7) for space at the top of the chamber-music pyramid. In their fourth appearance at the Union, their position may be even more secure after a program that will offer the Haydn Op. 77, No. 1, the Shostakovich 13th and the Beethoven Op. 59, No. 1 quartets.
The Trio Fontenay (violin, cello, piano; Apr. 5), formed in 1980, will make its Union debut and offer Beethoven's piano-trio arrangement, Op. 38, of his Septet, Op. 20, as well as trios by Dvorak and Strauss. Advance word is that this group is very good.
A mixture of solo and chamber works should amply display the gifts of Michala Petri, recorder, and Manuel Barrueco, guitar (Jan. 26). Goldberg notes one appeal of this combination: "We have an audience that is interested in interesting concerts." They are sure to get it here.
Though David Daniels, a rapidly rising star countertenor (Feb. 15), has not yet announced his program, the high male voice is most strongly associated with Baroque repertory, which should provide a lot of room for brilliant display of an instrument that is said to be extraorinarily sweet.
In the Performance Series, Chico César (Sep. 22) grafts numerous Brazilian and African elements, as well as rock, reggae and jazz, onto his northeastern Brazilian roots. South African Miriam Makeba (Oct. 27) is by now a living legend and first electrified me over 30 years ago at the Union. I can hardly wait to hear her again live.
Baaba Maal, an Afropop superstar (Feb. 9) follows up his 1999 smash success here with an all-acoustic program. The Trio Voronezh (Mar. 2), remarkable for performing their whole repertory from memory, features balalaikas and other folk instruments in music ranging from traditional to classical to contemporary.
Irish traditional folk music of the purest kind can be expected from Altan (Apr. 13). John Santo and the Machete Ensemble (Apr. 27), exponents of Afro-Latin music and Latin jazz, will round out the series.
A very special event at the Union Theater actually precedes all of the above: the AIDS Quilt Songbook Concert, at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Sep. 9, is a benefit for the AIDS Network. The Songbook, a cycle created by 18 composers and nearly as many poets, premiered at Alice Tully Hall in New York in 1992. Singers and other musicians, both national and local, are donating their efforts to this project: Kurt Ollmann, baritone, took part in the world premiere; Jeffrey Morrissey, baritone; William Lavonis, tenor; Paul Rowe, baritone; pianists Jeffrey Peterson and Jeffrey Sykes; and guest participants John Harbison, D. Scott Glasser, Donal St. Pierre and Christopher Ryan. The concert is presented in conjunction with an exhibition of four panels of the AIDS Quilt at the First United Methodist Church, Aug. 27-Sep. 23.
Isthmus, September, 2001
Copyright 2001 Jess Anderson