Program Notes

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Program Notes

Read 2021-22 Program Notes

Tune up for the season!

Our erudite and often humorous Program Notes Annotator, Michael Allsen, has won critical acclaim for the consistent quality of his notes. Find out about the composers, their lives, their work, their motivations, and much more when you read his Program Notes. You’ll also find our Program Notes on each of our concert pages and in our Symphony Program Books.

J. Michael Allsen

A recently-retired member of our trombone section of 35 years and a UW-Whitewater music professor of 22 years, Michael Allsen has written the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s program notes since 1984. He has prepared program notes for many ensembles, and his notes have been published by orchestras and choruses across the United States and in England, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Israel, and Zimbabwe. Read his bio here.

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In the Press

…It is time to mention the always edifying program notes of J. Michael Allsen. This set was particularly well-detailed and contained nice personal touches. Allsen is equally gifted in highlighting easily overlooked niceties, such as the fact that the strings remove their mutes one at a time in the Ravel, or in defining literally and practically such elusive terms as “formalism,” that favorite technique of the Soviet autocrats to denigrate their artists. Even if you don’t go…it’s a great and enjoyable investment of your time to read his notes at madisonsymphony.org.

Greg Hettmansberger

Madison Magazine

By the way, I would like to take the opportunity to point out how lucky we are to have the regular program annotations by Michael Allsen, otherwise visible blasting on bass trombone. His notes are literate, thorough, well-informed, and always worth reading.

John Barker

The Isthmus