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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Classical concert ‘Baroque and Beyond’ golden in Fish Creek

Critic At Large

Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra

Images of Victor Yampolsky over time as conductor and music director of the Peninsula Music Festival. (PMF image)


Tick tock, tick tock – the clock is running down on a remarkable tenure in classical orchestral music in Northeastern Wisconsin.

This is the final season for Victor Yampolsky on the podium and at the artistic planning desk of the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra.

This is the 67th season of the Peninsula Music Festival. This is Victor Yampolsky’s 34th as the go-to guy for the Peninsula Music Festival.

With the Aug. 24 concert, it’s farewell for Victor Yampolsky. He is retiring. Not retiring retiring in his musical career, just retiring from the festival.

Each year for 34 years, he was responsible for sailing something akin to the USS Constitution – all the rigging and masts and sailors – and making sure all the details were in tip top shape in nine voyages through the demanding waters of mighty meticulous classical music.

How many notes did he help set free?

It has to be billions.

Hundreds of thousands were loosened Tuesday night as Victor Yampolsky was on the podium for fourth concert of the 2019 season at Door Community Auditorium. The program was “Baroque and Beyond,” meaning the orchestra size was smaller – 18 to 28 musicians – for the limber genre of classical music.

Here is what Victor Yampolsky came up with:


Program (“Baroque and Beyond”)

Victor Yampolsky, music director and conductor

Part I

+ Jean-Philippe Rameau: Overture to “Nais”

+ Georg Philipp Telemann: “Suite in C major, ‘Water Music’ (‘Hamburg’s Ebb and Flood’)”


   “Sarabande: The Sleeping Thetis”

   “Bourée: The Awakening Thetis”

   “Loure: The Love-Sick Neptune”

   “Gavotte: The Naiads at Play”

   “Harlequinade: The Jocular Tritan”

   “The Storming Aeolus”

   “Menuet: The Pleasing Zephyr”

   “Gigue: Ebb and Flood”

   “Canarie: The Jolly Sailors”

+ Jean-Marie Leclair: “Violin Concerto F Major, Opus 7, No. 4” with guest artist Janet Sung

   Allegro moderato



Part II

+ Jean Francaix: “The Flower Clock for Oboe and Orchestra”

   “3 a.m. – Galant de jour: (poisonberry): Un poco maestoso”

   “5 a.m. – Cupidon bleue (blue catananche): Doppio pui vivo”

   “10 a.m. – Cierge a grandes fleurs (torch thistle): Andantino”

   “12 noon – Nyctanthe du Malabar (Malabar jasmine): Allegro”

   “5 p.m. – Belle de nuit (belladonna, or deadly nightshade): Andantino”

   “7 p.m. – Géranium triste (mourning geranium): Allegrissimo giusto”

   “9 p.m. – Siléne noctiflore (night-flowering catchfly): Poco meno vivo” 

+ Johann Sebastian Bach: “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068”



   Gavottes I and II




For each piece, Victor Yampolsky strode to the podium, massaged rich notes from the highly skilled players and, while delicious applause floated, bowed deeply with the words “Thank you” on his lips. So much was right about the performance.

The Rameau was lively and joyous.

The Telemann was life-affirming. The 10 movements were a smorgasbord of color, only in sound – muscular, sprightly, whirling, happy/sunny.

The LeClair was luscious. Guest violinist Janet Sung was at the fore, sure and smooth and refined. One impression from the second movement: Pensive with a slow rhythm like a heartbeat and then a flourish as light as the fluttering of a hummingbird – an array of flashing iridescence.

The Francaix was a wink and nod in music. Guest oboe player Eric Olson earnestly captured the surreal playfulness set free by the seven movements built to alternately be loping/playful, dreamy/serene, mischievous, sailing and at peace with the world, sometimes with the orchestra playing like a clock shop on speed.

The Bach was swell. It its midst is the famous Air movement – with soft, stealthy steps at the start by a figure (in the mind) dressed in a gossamer gown in the aura of reverie. All around that movement, Bach is full of energized flashes, with the trumpets’ notes glistening.

All the pieces were composed before 1750 (the “Baroque”) except for the Francaix, which is from 1959 (the “Beyond”). Whether 60 years or almost 300 years old, the music felt “now” – like big fresh, flower bouquets you could catch the scent of in a recess of your brain.

Victor Yamplosky imbues in listeners a sense of confidence. He once spoke to me of ingredients he has helped nurture in the Peninsula Music Festival:

“It really is a jewel of a festival. I can point out a couple of special things about it. No. 1, our festival is not outdoors, so it is not like Ravinia (Chicago) or Tanglewood (Boston). Being indoors in a magnificent – acoustically and otherwise – concert hall gives us an opportunity to present serious, winter-like programs. Second, we have an outstanding public. It just happens that the Door County public is extremely sophisticated, and its taste is superb.”

Got the picture why the fit has been so good? And for so long? Victor Yampolsky does wonders for the Peninsula Music Festival. That “does” is about to become “did.”

HONOR: The evening started with a tip of the hat for Jill Quigley. She is the organization’s social media manager, but the recognition was for her for 24 years as a guiding light for teams of volunteers, the lifeblood of so many organizations. In Green Bay, many people would remember her from her work with the Civic Symphony of Green Bay.

AHEAD THIS WEEK: Thursday: “Dvorak Mini-Festival,” with Janet Sung featured again. Saturday: “An Evening of Choral Music,’ including Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” involving more than 50 voices from the Dudley Birder Chorale of St. Norbert College in De Pere, including its artistic director, Kent Paulsen, and chorale soloist Courtney Sherman of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay music faculty.

THE VENUE: The 725-seat Door Community Auditorium features wood elements (for acoustics) surrounding its focal 60 by 24-foot proscenium (straight-front) stage. Designed by Sherrill Myers and Scott Georgeson of the Milwaukee architectural firm Beckley/Myers, the auditorium opened in 1991. Design influences include Door County’s natural beauty and heritage. Located at 3926 State Highway 42 (on a curve just north of Fish Creek’s Main Street), the auditorium serves the Gibraltar School District and hosts professional performances such as the respected Peninsula Music Festival and many of the nation’s top-shelf performance artists. In the auditorium design, the architects chose to emphasize open space, exposed steel and wood beams and simplicity of shapes. For orchestra concerts, the stage is lined with wood; panels are squares within larger squares. The roof interior is exposed wood, an acoustical touch. Balcony and box-seat areas are faced with plaster surfaces of a red hue, and the aura is like that of decks on a passenger ship, only inside. The hall’s seats are padded with wood backs. The lobby features two murals that represent the spirit of the peninsula, “Door County/The Water” and “Door County/The Land.”

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