Those who attended our performance of Premiere Debut enjoyed an unforgettable concert together in Overture Hall with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and guest artist, Kelly Hall-Tompkins. The program began with a beautiful performance of Kabalevsky’s Overture to Colas Breugnon. Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins accompanied the orchestra for an extraordinary performance of Marsalis’ Violin Concerto in D. After intermission, Greg Zelek, the Principal Organist of the Madison Symphoy Orhestra, joined the orchestra for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 in C minor, “Organ”. Read the reviews and view photos from the weekend to find out what made this concert so memorable!


Matt Ambrosio / Capital Times: “Madison Symphony Orchestra pushes genre boundaries with new concerto”

“From start to finish, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Friday concert had me fixated. It began with something exciting, then introduced me to something new and original, and ended with a treat that only Overture Hall can provide.”

“The MSO opened with Kabalevsky’s “Colas Breugnon Overture,” a perfect piece to whet the ear’s appetite. The work’s jaunty opening material is packed with complex (and exciting) rhythmic accent patterns, which the MSO maneuvered well together, even while spaced out for COVID safety.”

“The shining star of this weekend’s program is Wynton Marsalis’s Violin Concerto, an unparalleled piece that reflects the composer’s diverse expertise in both jazz and classical idioms. Marsalis brings violin concerto repertoire into new realms, both building off of established traditions and forging its own path, and for that reason, the piece feels both astonishingly familiar and new.

The soloist Kelly Hall-Tompkins effortlessly synthesized the various musical traditions — folk, jazz, classical —contained within this unique concerto. Along with breadth, this concerto demands depth, and Hall-Tompkins’s virtuosity was on display from the first to the final note.”

“The opening movement is an amalgamation of styles occupying the same musical space. Glistening orchestral dissonances support the solo violin’s low register at the start and maintain an airy texture. A welcomed contrast, the movement’s raucous middle section establishes a steady groove as the soloist explores her high register, eventually singing out the opening theme.”

“Continuing her cadenza solo, Hall-Tompkins displayed great expertise transitioning from lusciously sweet tones to wonderfully sour dissonances with extreme care and subtlety.”

“It is always a treat to hear Overture’s organ, and it features prominently in the final piece of the night, Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3, aptly referred to as his “Organ Symphony.” It opens with a smooth orchestral swell that feels like breaths of fresh air. Even during some of the denser sections, the MSO maintained a clean light air, making the piece a refreshing end to the concert.”

“Throughout the first movement and into the second, the organ plays a supporting role, with organist Greg Zelek providing a warm and embracing texture, perfect for a cold Madison evening. But there is a wonderful surprise in the final Maestoso section. After remaining in the background, the organ bursts into the foreground with a bombastic C major chord, which on Friday evening had audience members visibly jumping in their seats.”

Read the full review


Bill Wineke / Channel 3000: “‘Premiere Debut’ is good music but weirdly titled”

“Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is one of the world’s great musicians and his “Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra” is probably going to go down as a masterpiece of 21st-century music.”

“The Madison Symphony Orchestra featured it in its weekend concerts and invited violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins as its featured musician. She did a wonderful job and the presentation was a big success.”

“The concerto is an eclectic reflection on modern life. Parts of it pay homage to Bernstein, parts of it pay homage to southern wedding receptions. The four movements are titled, ‘Rhapsody, Rondo Burlesque, Blues and Hootenany.'”

“Hall-Tompkins played brilliantly. She is not a flamboyant performer (although, since she as well as the other musicians were masked, it would be hard to tell) the audience’s attention was on the music, which was sweet.”

“The symphony, Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3 in C Minor,” is familiar and popular around the world.

The strange thing about it, given its name, is that the organ doesn’t really come into its own until five minutes before the conclusion. For most of the 36-minute piece, Zelek either doesn’t play at all or, basically, supports the rest of the orchestra.

No matter, whenever Zelek enters a stage, the audience is happy.”

Read the full review


John Stofflet / NBC15: “Kelly Hall-Tompkins: Bringing classical music to both concert halls and those experiencing homelessness”

John Stofflet spoke with Kelly Hall-Tompkins about how she got started playing and her incredible career, which includes bringing classical music to homeless shelters in New York and playing in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.

Watch the interview


WORT: “A Chat With John DeMain Of Madison Symphony Orchestra”

Music Director John DeMain spoke with Ava Borelli of WORT FM about the three pieces being performed this weekend during our Premiere Debut concerts: Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with Kelly Hall-Tompkins Violinist, Camille Saint Saens’ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor with organist Greg Zelek, and the Overture to Dmitri Kabalevsky’s opera Colas Breugnon.

Listen to the interview

Hear what the audience had to say…


Kelly Hall-Tompkins was incredible, and the pieces played are not often heard live. I especially loved the Marsalis concerto.

The Winton Marsalis Concerto for violin and orchestra was most surprising and delightful. The Saint-Saens organ symphony is a favorite.

I loved EVERYTHING about this concert. I enjoyed the Kabelevsky overture. The Marsalis was utterly terrific and Ms. Hall-Tompkins’ performance exceptional. The Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 is a personal favorite and I greatly enjoyed hearing live with Mr. Zelek playing that wonderful organ.

The Saint Saens was a huge January uplift . . . I was looking forward to the Marsalis concerto and it delivered.

The Marsalis piece captured me from beginning to end. I didn’t want it to be over.

How thankful I am for the gifts of music from MSO. My heart is always lifted when attending MSO performances.

The high quality and total commitment of the performers and the joy of sharing music that was exuded by the orchestra and audience.

Camille Saint-Saens, the orchestra and John DeMain were excellent! It was a rousing performance.

I have never heard a better performance (including recordings) of the Kabalevsky Colas Breugnon Overture nor the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3! Wow! The Violin Concerto by Wynton Marsalis was new to me, and I enjoyed it. The performance by Kelly Hall-Tompkins was beautiful and flawless!

Excellence of soloist, organist, and MSO in general.

I loved the Saint Saens live, but the creativity of the Marsalis piece was the most compelling, even though it was also challenging at times.

Marsallas piece — interesting, amazing skill of orchestra and soloist. How did she ever memorize that piece?! But, she seemed to really feel each part.

Ms. Hall-Tompkin’s performance made me cry with emotion, something I rarely do. Many of the virtuosic soloists have made my jaw drop, but she is the only one who moved me with such feeling.

LOVED the percussionists – they got to play/use SO many “instruments”

A most beautiful and delightful evening….the selections were excellent. the violinist outstanding and Greg….well, Greg is Greg and always absolutely wonderful!

The orchestra chose a piece that was outside the normal with a challenge to the listener. It met our expectations.

It was nice to hear music from a composer not previously played before, especially a composer of color.