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Sunday, February 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society seeks Haydn

Every season of the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society has a punning theme to unite its programs. This year's is "Haydn Seek," combining the idea of children's games with marking the 200th anniversary of the great 18th-century Austrian master's death. Each program will contain a chamber work of his.

The first session came on Friday, June 12, at the Stoughton Opera House, one of my favorite theaters in Wisconsin. The core players were pianist Jeffrey Sykes, violinist Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio and cellist Parry Karp. Accordingly, the signature Haydn work was one of his piano trios, one written during his sojourn in London. It is cast in unusual two-movement form, the first a beguiling theme-with-variations, the second, a prankish evocation of "Jacob's Dream."

The opener was a Paris Conservatory graduation or display piece for flute and piano, a frothy "Sonatine," by Henri Dutilleux (born 1916). It was intended both to show off and to test a new graduate in flute, requiring the player to demonstrate command of just about every kind of technique and color in the instrument's capacity. Stephanie Jutt, the BDDS director (with Sykes), showed a complete and spirited command of its intricacies.

Jutt joined the other three for a charming chamber work with narration, the "Le Parnasse, ou L'Apothèose de Corelli," representing Franois Couperin's efforts to reconcile French with Italian Baroque style. Singer Timothy Jones provided the quaint narration. The use of piano instead of the standard harpsichord constituted some compromise of authenticity, but hardly a detriment to the music's inherent charm. It is good, after all, to have the BDDSers include some Baroque literature.

The highlight of the usual intermission high jinks was an appearance by a dashing troupe of fiddling youngsters, of the Sonora Madison program. After that, the three core players got down to the most serious business of the evening, Maurice Ravel's Trio of 1914, for violin, cello and piano. This work, in seemingly conventional four movements, is an extraordinary study in melodic richness, rhythmic trickiness and coloristic timbres, all in the composer's totally personal style--a remarkable chamber piece heard too rarely. It was given a dashing performance by our three players, as a superb sendoff for the season ahead.

That season will give us more Haydn, but also a wide range of other music, by Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak, Martinu, Elgar and Mendelssohn, among others. As always, the venues will vary between the Stoughton theater, Madison's Overture Center and Taliesin in Spring Green, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through June 28.

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