Hungarian Composer with a Door County Connection Featured with “International Colors”

For our concerts coming up this weekend and beyond, we have chosen the title “International Colors.” The programs feature the works of composers from France, Italy and Hungary.

Artistic Director Jim Berkenstock. Photo by Bill Jacobs

Artistic Director Jim Berkenstock. Photo by Bill Jacobs

The work by the Hungarian, Ernst von Dohnanyi, has a tangential tie to Door County.

Dohnanyi was one of the triumvirate of Hungarian composers from the late 19th century and first half of the 20th, which put Hungary on the map as a source of great classical music. The other two composers were Bartok and Kodaly.

The connection to Door County, however, revolves around Ernst von Dohnanyi’s grandson, Christoph von Dohnanyi.

Christoph is one of the world’s great conductors of symphony orchestras. For many years, he was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra. During his tenure, it was regarded as being one of the very finest in existence. Few residents of Door County know it, but Maestro Dohnanyi has a vacation retreat in Door County.

Jean and I had the opportunity to work with Christoph Dohnanyi very early in our careers at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was a rather brash twenty-something conductor, but his great talent and ability to bring our orchestra up to a higher level made some of us forgive his difficult temperament. I believe he made his American debut with us at Lyric Opera and came back each season for several years. We did works of Richard Strauss, Mozart, Wagner and Verdi with him during this period.

Then his rapidly ascending fame took him to other orchestras around the world. It was only when Lyric Opera celebrated its 50th anniversary several seasons ago that Christoph came back to help in those festivities by leading a number of performances of Beethoven’s opera, “Fidelio.”

However, sometime before his return, I learned that Christoph had purchased a vacation home in Door County. Somehow, I found out that it was south of Sturgeon Bay. I even remember one time when Jean and I were going home from Door County, we took County U on our way to Algoma in the not very realistic hope that we would find his place. I didn’t really expect to see a mailbox along the road that said “Maestro Dohnanyi” (and we didn’t).

During the production of “Fidelio,” I found out that the maestro came to Door County when he had a few free days between performances, despite the fact that it was January and very cold and snowy that year. He enjoyed it here that much.

Several seasons later, Midsummer’s Music was doing another work by Christoph’s grandfather, and I was delivering my usual remarks to our concert audience about the work. I happened to mention the grandson/Door County connection.

Later, at our customary post-concert reception, I had the opportunity to talk with Barbara Lawton, our former lieutenant governor, who was attending the concert. Lawton has been coming to our concerts for some time, and her mother, Helen, for even longer.

Since I had told the audience I hadn’t been able to find Christoph Dohnanyi’s home, Barbara allowed that she knew exactly where it was because he was a neighbor of her family. Finally the riddle was solved in a most unexpected way.

However, there is a little more to the whole Dohnanyi saga.

One of our pianists, Bill Billingham, is also an assistant conductor at Lyric Opera and assisted Maestro Dohnanyi in “Fidelio.” Bill is very interested in the writings of the theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer. He knew that Christoph’s father and Ernst’s son, Hans von Dohnanyi, was married to Bonhöffer’s sister, and that Bonhöffer and Hans von Dohnanyi were both implicated in an attempt to assassinate Hitler during the early 1940s. Both were hanged for their nearly successful attempt.

So here we have something of the story of a very interesting family that leads to Door County. Composer Ernst von Dohnanyi also has a very interesting story to tell in his Sextet for Winds, Strings and Piano — a fabulous work. You can enjoy it, and works of Fauré and Bottesini, at Birch Creek in Egg Harbor on June 21, at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship June 22 or at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sister Bay on Thursday,  June 27. The St. Luke’s concert begins earlier than our normal start, at 6:30 p.m. and can be combined with a special dinner at Mission Grille. For tickets or more information, please call (920) 854-7088.

Jim’s Blog – International Flavors 7/4/12

Jim Berkenstock, Photo by Bill Jacobs

Midsummer’s Music has four concerts coming up from Friday, July 6 through Tuesday, July 10. They include music of one of France’s most famous composers, Camille Saint-Saens, and a big work by a composer well known in Norway, Christian Sinding (the most famous Norwegian composer after Edvard Grieg). The third piece on the program, however, is by a composer all but forgotten until recently. His name is Theodor Blumer. I guess I first came across this German composer’s music through recordings a few years ago. However, it was a recent trip that brought him closer to my awareness.

Jean and I had decided to go on a cruise this past spring to celebrate her 43 years at Lyric Opera of Chicago as Principal Flute. We flew to Berlin and, after a few days exploring that venerable city, boarded a cruise ship on the Elbe River. For the next eight days, we sailed leisurely toward Prague making numerous stops along the way to explore scenic places and interesting river cities. One such city was Dresden, a city sometimes referred to as “The Florence on the Elbe.”

Dresden is well known for the Allied bombing raid that devastated much of the city in February, 1945, just months before the end of World War II. The raid was conducted, in part, with fire bombs instead of concussion bombs. Despite the devastating civilian toll and wide-spread destruction, the fire bombs, while incinerating anything that would burn, left the massive stone walls of many important buildings standing. Most of these burned-out hulks have been restored to pre-war magnificence.

This is especially true of the famous Dresden Semper Opera House. Dating back over 200 hundred years, this building and institution was home to Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner, and nine of Richard Strauss’s fifteen operas were premiered there. Jean and I took a tour and saw how magnificently the interior has been restored in every detail. We felt moved to be in this historic building, particularly because we have worked with conductors and singers who were closely associated with the Dresdner Staatsoper, and we have performed many of the works that originated there. Some of the musicians from their great orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapell, came aboard our ship that evening to play some Haydn and Mozart for us. What a treat!

However, it was not until we got home that I realized an additional connection. I had already written the program notes for our Midsummer’s Music Festival program book before we left on our cruise, so I should have remembered that Theodor Blumer, this relatively unknown composer, was born and worked in Dresden. But, having written about over twenty composers and works in just a few short weeks, Blumer never entered my mind while in Dresden.

It was only when we got back and I had to start practicing the music for this year’s festival that something caught my eye. At the top of the page of my part for Blumer’s Sextet for Winds and Piano, it says (in German), “Dedicated in friendship to the wind section of the Dresdner Staatsoper.” Blumer lists the five wind players from about 100 years ago in this dedication – players who did in their time in Dresden, just what Jean and I have been doing at Lyric Opera of Chicago for the past forty-some years. The bassoon player, Wilhelm Knockenhauer, is a name familiar to me because he devised a style and shape of bassoon reed still used by many players, myself included.

Suddenly, the composer of this charming and inventive work seemed, largely due to several chance factors, to have become more personally significant to me. You have a chance to get acquainted with Theodor Blumer, Christian Sinding, and Camille Saint-Saens at Bjorklunden on Friday evening, July 6, or on Saturday, July 7th at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Ephraim. Both of these concerts are at 7:30. The program will be heard at The Clearing on Sunday, July 8th at 2:00 pm. Tuesday, July 10th offers the opportunity to hear the program at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sister Bay at 6:30, or the prospect of making a full evening of it with a pre-concert reception and a post-concert dinner at The Mission Grille Restaurant. For reservations or further information, please call 920-854-7088, or click the Online Store link at the top of this page. You, too, will feel a connection with three fascinating and expressive composers from a long time ago.

Door County’s Classical Music Ensemble Hires Director of Development and Marketing

Midsummer’s Music Festival is proud to announce and welcome Jami Stutting as the Nonprofit’s Director of Development and Marketing. Stutting will be responsible for fundraising, grant writing, public relations and social media administration.

 

Midsummer’s Music Festival is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has been bringing classical concerts to Door County for over 20 years. Under the Artistic Director and Founder, James T. Berkenstock, Midsummer’s Music Festival has grown from two concerts per summer to over 20 concerts between June and mid-July. And more recently, concerts are now available in May, Labor Day Weekend and during the Christmas holiday season. World-class musicians from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, and the Marlboro Music Festival, along with faculty from notable Midwestern universities, perform in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County such as art galleries, retreats, churches, and private homes. All concerts include an inviting reception where audience members can meet the musicians.

From the great masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak (to name a few), to some lesser-known but very accomplished composers, each concert is an unforgettable musical experience.

Jami’s passion is exactly what we’ve been looking for to help us grow our audiences and reach our long-term goals,” states Kathleen Pearson, Executive Director of Midsummer’s Music Festival.

Stutting earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, where she focused on writing, editing, and publishing. She served as the Community Relations Director for Angelus Retirement Community in Clintonville, WI, before moving to Door County in 2006. Since moving to Sturgeon Bay, Stutting served as the Operations/Financial Development Assistant at the Door County YMCA, and more recently, as the Circulation Sales Coordinator for The Door County Advocate, where she was responsible for marketing The Door County Advocate, Kewaunee County News, and Door County Magazine.

Stutting is active in the community as a member of The Noon Rotary Club of Sturgeon Bay, The Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church Choir and Altrusa of Door County. She also volunteers for many other organizations.

I am thrilled at the opportunity to work for such a fine organization. Just think, world-renowned musicians, playing beautiful music in intimate settings, on a picturesque peninsula…it sounds more like heaven than a job,” Stutting chuckled. “I can’t wait to start speaking to different organizations and groups in order to educate more people about this unique treasure I’ve discovered in Door County.”

If you would like to have Jami speak about Midsummer’s Music Festival to your group or organization, please call 920-854-7008 or email MidsummersMusic@gmail.com. For general or ticket information please check out the website at www.MidsummersMusic.com.

 

Midsummer’s Music Festival – Door County’s Premiere Classical Ensemble!

The Clearing - Photo by Bill Jacobs

Midsummer’s Music Festival is Door County, Wisconsin’s premiere classical music ensemble. Our world-class musicians are from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, and the Marlboro Music Festival, and perform with faculty from notable Midwestern universities.

Lyric principles Jim and Jean Berkenstock (bassoonist and flutist) are the founders of Midsummer’s Music. They perform with our outstanding ensemble: violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Walter Preucil, hornist John Fairfield, pianists William Koehler and Bill Billingham, violinist Stephanie Preucil, and violist Allyson Fleck. Each year they are joined by accomplished musicians such as clarinetist Todd Cope from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and violist Elias Goldstein, the runner-up in the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition.

David Perry solo in Svenden's "Romance" at Rock Island's Viking Hall

Midsummer’s Music performs in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County such as art galleries, retreats, churches, and private homes. All concerts include an inviting reception where you can meet our musicians.

From the great masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak (to name a few), to some lesser-known but very accomplished composers, each concert is an unforgettable musical experience.

Midsummer’s Music has been a part of the Door County arts scene for 21 years. From mid-June to mid-July and over the Labor Day holiday, our festival is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, by people of all ages.

Midsummer’s Music Festival – The Best of the Best!



Midsummer’s Music Festival – Door County’s Premiere Classical Ensemble!

The Clearing - Photo by Bill Jacobs

Midsummer’s Music Festival is Door County, Wisconsin’s premiere classical music ensemble. Our world-class musicians are from organizations such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, and the Marlboro Music Festival, and perform with faculty from notable Midwestern universities.

Lyric principles Jim and Jean Berkenstock (bassoonist and flutist) are the founders of Midsummer’s Music. They perform with our outstanding ensemble: violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Walter Preucil, hornist John Fairfield, pianists William Koehler and Bill Billingham, violinist Stephanie Preucil, and violist Allyson Fleck. Each year they are joined by accomplished musicians such as clarinetist Todd Cope from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and violist Elias Goldstein, the runner-up in the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition.

David Perry solo in Svenden's "Romance" at Rock Island's Viking Hall

Midsummer’s Music performs in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County such as art galleries, retreats, churches, and private homes. All concerts include an inviting reception where you can meet our  musicians.

From the great masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak (to name a few), to some lesser-known but very accomplished composers, each concert is an unforgettable musical experience.

Midsummer’s Music has been a part of the Door County arts scene for 21 years.  From mid-June to mid-July, our festival is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, by people of all ages.

Our 2011 musical journey wraps up August 31 – September 5, 2011. Check out our Calendar of Events: CALENDAR.

Midsummer’s Music Festival – The Best of the Best!



Celebrating 21 years of Classical Music Concerts in Door County!

Midsummer’s Music Festival is Door County, Wisconsin’s premiere chamber music ensemble, featuring world-class musicians from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pro Arte Quartet, and Aspen Music Festival. And that’s just for starters!

Midsummer’s Music performs in intimate and casual settings throughout Door County, such as art galleries, retreats, churches, homes, and local performing arts centers. All concerts include an inviting reception where you get to meet our world-class musicians.

The Clearing - Photo by Bill Jacobs

From the great masters such as Mozart, Schubert, and Dvorak (to name a few), to some lesser-known but very accomplished composers, each concert is an unforgettable musical experience.

Experience the joy during our 21st season, starting June 10, 2011 and running through July 15, and also over Labor Day weekend.

Midsummer’s Music Festival.

Not for the faint of heart!