Muir String Quartet with Gilbert Kalish, piano
April 17, 2004, 8:00 p.m.
Celebrating its 25th
anniversary during the 2003/2004 season, the Muir String Quartet has long been
acknowledged as one of the world’s most powerful and insightful ensembles,
distinguishing itself among audiences and critics with its “exhilarating
involvement” (Boston Globe), impeccable voicing and intonation” (San
Francisco Examiner), and “unbridled musicality (American Record Guide).
Formed in 1979 following graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music,
the Muir won the 1980 Evian International String Quartet Competition and the
1981 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. In
the spirit of its namesake, the naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John
Muir, the Muir String Quartet donates proceeds from its EcoClassics CDs to a
variety of environmental and conservation organizations.
The Muir Quartet is in residence at Boston University.
Gilbert Kalish leads a musical life of unusual variety and breadth.
He has been the pianist of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players since 1969
and was a founding member of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, which flourished
during the 1960s and 1970s. His
thirty-year partnership with the mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani is recognized as
one of the most remarkable artistic collaborations of our time. As an educator, Kalish is Leading Professor and Head of
Performance Activities at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
He was on the faculty of the Tangelwood Music Center from 1968 to 1997.
In 1995, he was presented with the Paul Fromm Award by the University of
Chicago Music Department for distinguished service to the music of our time.
Muir Quartet is presented by special arrangement with Arts Management Group,
Inc., 1133 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.
van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Quartet in C minor, op. 18, no. 4
Allegro ma non tanto
Scherzo: Andante scherzoso, quasi
most of his published output until the year 1798 was chamber music, Ludwig van
Beethoven had conspicuously avoided the string quartet, intimidated as he was by
the examples of Haydn and Mozart. He
had studied the works of both of the older masters carefully, going so far as to
copy out certain movements in their entirety. He had met and perhaps even taken a few lessons from Mozart
in 1787 and he was a student of Haydn for about a year during 1792 and 1793.
Yet when the same Count Apponyi to whom Hadyn had dedicated his Quartets,
opp. 71 and 74 commissioned a quartet from Beethoven in 1795, he declined,
feeling still unequal to the challenge.
for his early publications (the Piano Trios, op. 1; a number of piano sonatas,
including the “Pathétique” op. 13; and his first two piano concertos)
boosted Beethoven’s confidence. He
began to sketch out his works in bound volumes of music paper rather than on the
random sheets he had previously used, reflecting a new sense of himself as a
serious composer. By 1800, he had
completed his most ambitious project to date, his six “String Quartets, op.
18,” dedicated to Prince Josef Franz von Lobkowitz, who maintained a quartet
in his Vienna home.
“Quartet in C minor, op. 18, no.4” was probably the last of the six to be
written and was the only one in a minor key.
In its almost unrelenting solemnity, the “Allegro ma non troppo” is
unprecedented in the quartet literature up to that time.
Its intensely driven first theme and lighter second theme share a
syncopated rhythmic motive and represents one of Beethoven’s earliest
expressions of intertwined torment and rapture.
“Scherzo” is an abrupt change of pace, full of contrapuntal sparkle, with a
rhythmically mercurial theme that begins as a fugue and spins out into a sort of
fantasia. Plunging back into
darkness, the minuet displays a Mozartean chromaticism.
The calmer trio quivers with impatience; in fact, when the minuet
returns, it is marked to be played “faster than before.”
rondo-form finale features a propulsive theme that grows more powerful with
every repeat, changed and somehow enriched with each intervening episode.
One moment of tranquility prevails before a final passionate outburst and
a fairly upbeat conclusion of three swirling chords.
Five Pieces for String Quartet (composed
Alla Valse Viennese (Allegro)
Alla Serenata (Allegretto con moto)
Alla Czeca (Molto allegro)
Alla Tango milonga (Andante)
Alla Tarantella (Prestissimo con fuoco)
less a figure than Antonín Dvorák recognized the early talents of Erwin
Schulhoff, born in 1894 to a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague.
Schulhoff studied in succession at the Prague Conservatory (1902-1904),
the Vienna Conservatory (1904-1908), with Max Reger at the Leipzig Conservatory
(1908-1910), and the Cologne Conservatory (1910-14).
In Cologne in 1913, he won both the Wüllner Prize and the Mendelssohn
Prize in piano. In
1918, he won the Mendelssohn Prize in composition for his Piano
Sonata, op. 22.
influences were wide-ranging, from Dvorák, Brahms, and Schumann early on, to
Debussy, with whom he studied briefly during 1913.
But his life was interrupted by World War I, when he was conscripted into
the Austrian army in 1914.
The war changed both his politics and his aesthetics, leading him to
become a dedicated socialist and to align himself with the Dadaist movement on
one hand, and the Viennese Expressionists on the other.
the Dadaists, and especially his friend the painter George Grosz, he immersed
himself in the European jazz of the 1920s, working as a pianist in clubs and
composing a series of seriously jazz-inspired works.
At the same time, he was writing typically terse atonal music and
corresponding with Alban Berg.
In 1923, he returned from Germany to Prague, and his music changed again
under the influence of Janáček.
the early 1930s, as the Nazis rose in Germany, Schulhoff headed further left,
setting the Communist Manifesto as a huge cantata.
He embraced socialist realism, writing large programmatic symphonies
through the 1930s. In
1939, he became a citizen of the Soviet Union and tried to emigrate after the
Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Before he could leave Prague, however, he was arrested as a Jew, a Soviet
citizen, and a “degenerate” artist.
He died in August 1942 in the Bavarian concentration camp in Wülzburg.
December of that pivotal year of 1923 immediately following his return to
Prague, Schulhoff composed the Five Pieces
for String Quartet.
In its concision, the work reflects Schulhoff’s Expressionist side; in
its ability to surprise and delight, it reflects his Dadaist side.
All told, it is a witty, modern take on the baroque dance suite,
dedicated to Darius Milhaud.
It was a great success at the festival of the International Society for
New Music in Salzburg on August 8, 1924.
a no-doubt Dadaist joke, the Alla Valse
Viennese finds a three-beat waltz inserted into 4/4 time.
Pizzicati , strumming, and bowing with the wood (col
legno) mark the strangely atonal Alla
Czech folk influence is especially strong in the Alla
Czeca, a 2/4 polka in 4/4 time.
The sensuous tango, Alla Tango
milonga, is the longest of the five pieces, followed by the furious finale, Alla Tarantella.
in F minor, op. 34 (composed 1861-1864)
Allegro non troppo
Andante, un poco adagio
Finale: Poco sostenuto -- Allegro
times did Brahms attempt to forge this F minor work. He first conceived it as a quintet for two violins, viola,
and two cellos. In this initial
form, the muddy texture prompted his friend, the master violinist Joseph
Joachim, to declare that it was beyond the capabilities of most merely mortal
string players. Even the composer
admitted that this combination was unable to summon the requisite fervor.
Undeterred, Brahms recast it as a sonata for two pianos.
But now, the keyboards tended to overwhelm the gentler passages.
the urging of Clara Schumann, Brahms reworked it once again, this time as a
piano quintet. By melding the power
of the piano with the warm timbre of the string quartet, Brahms was at last able
to convey his full vision. This
final version (sometimes designated "Opus 34a") was published in 1865,
dedicated to Princess Anna of Hesse. The
two-piano score was also published (as "Opus 34b") in 1872.
The Quintet stands not only as the crowning achievement of Brahms's
developing maturity but also as "the most sonorous of all extant works for
pianoforte and strings," in the words of critic Donald Francis Tovey.
the vigorous, unison opening theme, the tightly-constructed Allegro
non troppo is a model of sonata form. Five
contrasting themes, a taut development, and a coda that rises from gentle
counterpoint back to the tempestuous bent of the opening, add up to a dramatic
fusion of Beethovenian mood swings and Schubertian melodic invention.
The three-part slow movement places monothematic A-flat major sections on
either side of an E major passage.
Shifts between 6/8 and 2/4, and between major and
minor, mark the Scherzo, with its
three subjects. The trio, hinting
of the Brahms yet to come, handles a single theme with wit and concision.
Introduced by a reflective Poco
sostenuto that serves as the leavening agent for the movement, the
four-themed finale rises into a form not quite identifiable.
What seems like an exposition is followed by a development-cum-recap and
a developmental coda that kneads the material yet again before letting it rest. Here, Brahms has taken sonata form and twisted it to
accommodate his subjects and ideas
notes by Jay Weitz, Consulting Database Specialist for music, OCLC Online
Computer Library Center, Dublin, Ohio.
He is a contributing performing arts critic for the weekly alternative
Music, Art, and Culture in Columbus (http://www.columbusalive.com).
| Back to Top | Back
to Programs | CCMS Home |