Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Piano Quartet) – Season 68, Concert 10

April 26, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016, 3:00 pm
Vancouver Playhouse  

Ani Kavafian, violin
Erin Keefe, violin
Yura Lee, viola
Matthew Lipman, viola
Nicholas Canellakis, cello
David Finckel, cello

Ani Kavafian has performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for 44 years. She also performs with the Kavafian/Schub/Shifrin Trio, the Da Salo String Trio, her sister Ida Kavafian, and the Triton Horn Trio. Her solo career has included performances with many major orchestras. Her recordings include the Bach sonatas with Kenneth Cooper, Mozart sonatas with Jorge Federico Osorio, and Justin Dello Joio’s Piano Trio with Carter Brey and Jeremy Denk. She has performed at numerous music festivals. Together with Carter Brey, she is artistic director of Mostly Music, the chamber music series in New Jersey. She is a full professor at Yale University. Ms. Kavafian plays a 1736 Stradivarius violin.  

Erin Keefe is concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra and won a 2006 Avery Fisher Career Grant as well as the 2009 Pro Musicis International Award. She has won prizes in the Valsesia Music International Violin Competition (Italy), the Torun International Violin Competition (Poland), the Schadt Competition, and the Corpus Christi International String Competition. She has been featured on Live From Lincoln Center three times with CMS. Her recording credits include Schoenberg’s second string quartet, and works by Dvorák. She has appeared at many top music festivals. Ms. Keefe earned a master’s degree from Juilliard and a bachelor’s degree from The Curtis Institute. Her teachers included Ronald Copes, Ida Kavafian, Arnold Steinhardt, and Philip Setzer.

Yura Lee is a multi-faceted musician, one of the very few equally virtuosic on both violin and viola. She has performed with major orchestras and given recitals in major cities of North America and Europe. She was the youngest ever to receive the Debut Artist of the Year prize at the Performance Today awards from National Public Radio. She received the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and first prize at the 2013 ARD Competition. Her CD, Mozart in Paris, was awarded the Diapason d’Or. As a chamber musician, she regularly takes part at major music festivals. Her teachers included Dorothy DeLay and Nobuko Imai. Ms. Lee is professor of violin at the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden, Germany. She divides her time between New York City and Berlin.

Violist Matthew Lipman received a 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant; he has been hailed by the New York Times for his “rich tone and elegant phrasing”, and by the Chicago Tribune for his “splendid technique and musical sensitivity.” His debut recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante was recently released. He has performed with many top symphony orchestras. He has been profiled by The Strad and BBC Music magazines, and recently performed Penderecki’s Cadenza for solo viola live on WQXR. A member of CMS Two, Mr. Lipman has performed with members of CMS in many prestigious venues and at many important music festivals. A top prizewinner of the Tertis, Primrose, Washington, Stulberg, and Johansen International competitions, Mr. Lipman is the recipient of a Kovner Fellowship at The Juilliard School, where he serves as a teaching assistant to Heidi Castleman. He performs on a 1700 Matteo Goffriller viola from the REB foundation.

Nicholas Canellakis has become one of the most sought-after cellists of his generation. He is praised for his impassioned and soulful playing and rich, alluring tone. In spring 2015, he made his Carnegie Hall concerto debut, performing Leon Kirchner’s Music for Cello and Orchestra with the American Symphony Orchestra. A former member of CMS Two, he appears regularly with the Chamber Music Society in Alice Tully Hall and on tour. He performs numerous recitals throughout the country each season with his duo partner, pianist/composer Michael Brown, and has been a guest artist at many of the world’s leading music festivals. He is the co-artistic director of the Sedona Winter MusicFest in Arizona. He is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and New England Conservatory and is on the faculty of the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music. And he has produced, directed, and starred in several short films and music videos, including his popular comedy web series, “Conversations with Nick Canellakis.

David Finckel, co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society, was named Musical America’s 2012 Musician of the Year. He leads a multifaceted career as a concert performer, recording artist, educator, administrator, and cultural entrepreneur – placing him in the ranks of today’s most influential classical musicians. He has been hailed as “one of the top ten, if not top five, cellists in the world today” (Nordwest Zeitung, Germany). As a chamber musician, he appears often with duo partner pianist Wu Han and in a piano trio adding violinist Philip Setzer. David Finckel served as cellist of the Emerson String Quartet for 34 seasons. In 1997 David Finckel and Wu Han launched ArtistLed, classical music’s first musician-directed and internet-based (and critically acclaimed) recording company. Along with Wu Han, he is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Music@Menlo and institute, and artistic director for Chamber Music Today in Korea. In 2013 he inaugurated a chamber music workshop at the Aspen Music Festival and School. The first American student of Rostropovich, David Finckel serves on the faculty at The Juilliard School and Stony Brook University.  

Programme

Sextet for Strings from Capriccio, Op. 8 | Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

Composed in 1939-41, Capriccio was Richard Strauss’ last operatic venture and it not only summarizes a lifetime of stylistic achievement but also addresses concerns that the accumulation of years could not dim. For Strauss in this masterful opera, those concerns were two: one was the cataloging of his greatest musical loves; the other was a consideration of the essential dilemma of all vocal music—the relative importance of words and music. To demonstrate the music that he held in highest regard, Strauss quoted in the score snippets from the works of Mozart, Wagner, Gluck, and Verdi, and he even included fragments from some of his own compositions. Regarding the words/music controversy, which is the true subject of the opera, Strauss wrote, “The battle between words and music has been the problem of my life from the beginning, and I leave it with Capriccio as a question mark.”

The lovely string sextet that serves as the introduction to Capriccio was first heard six months before the work’s official premiere. In 1942, Strauss and his wife moved to Vienna from their Bavarian home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Their refusal to hide their disgust with the Nazi leadership had made their position in Garmisch difficult when their Jewish daughter-in-law and her children were threatened with ostracism. The governor of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach, assured Strauss that he would shelter the family if they would make no further public anti-Nazi remarks. In appreciation, Strauss allowed the sextet to be performed privately at Schirach’s house on May 7, 1942.

The sextet brings Strauss’ opulent harmonic palette and rich instrumental textures to his stylized recreation of elegant Rococo chamber music. In the opera, the music begins before the stage is revealed. As it continues, the curtain rises to show the characters listening to the music played by an off-stage ensemble as the musician Flamand’s birthday offering to the Countess. In the words of Michael Kennedy; “Capriccio is Strauss’ most enchanting opera. It is also the nearest he came to unflawed perfection in a work of art. It is an anthology or synthesis of all that he did best, and it is as if he put his creative process into a crucible, refining away coarseness, bombast, and excess of vitality.”

Sextet in A major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, Op. 48 | Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Allegro – Moderato
Dumka – Poco allegretto
Furiant – Presto
Finale – Tema con variazioni. Allegretto grazioso, quasi andantino

As a young composer, Dvořák’s income from his compositions and as organist at St. Adalbert’s Church in Prague was so meager that the city officials certified his poverty, thus making him eligible to submit his work for consideration to a committee in Vienna awarding grants to struggling artists. The members of the selection committee deemed his work worthy of encouragement, and, on their recommendation, the Minister of Culture, Karl Stremayer, awarded the young musician 400 gulden, the highest stipend bestowed under the program. It represented Dvořák’s first recognition outside his homeland.. An excited burst of compositional activity followed during the years just after Dvořák learned of his award, in February 1875.

The sextet was composed in only two weeks during May 1878, and first given on July 29, 1879 at a private soirée in the Berlin home of the master violinist and staunch ally of Brahms, Joseph Joachim. The event marked the first time that a chamber work of Dvořák had received its premiere outside Bohemia. Joachim introduced the sextet to the public in Vienna, and played it twice the following spring in London, where it excited an enthusiasm for Dvořák and his music that remained undimmed for the rest of his life.

The sonata-form opening movement uses as its main theme a melody of rapturous beauty given as a sweet duet between first violin and first cello. The subsidiary subject is a short-breathed motive of small leaps and skipping rhythms initiated by the violin. The skipping rhythms are given special prominence in the development section. A complete recapitulation and a long coda allow for the full appreciation of the movement’s splendid thematic components. The middle two movements—a Dumka and a Furiant—strongly impress their folk idioms upon the sextet. The Dumka was a traditional Slavic (especially Ukrainian) folk ballad of meditative character often describing heroic deeds and Dvořák adopted this form for several of his other important works. The Furiant is a Czech dance whose fiery character is indicated by its name. The sextet’s Finale is a set of five variations on the theme given at the outset by the viola to which is appended a whirlwind coda.

INTERMISSION

Sextet No. 2 in G major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Two Cellos, Op. 36 | Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Allegro non troppo
Scherzo – Allegro non troppo – Presto giocoso
Adagio
Poco allegro

Brahms steadfastly vowed that he would “never undertake either an opera or a marriage,” and though he never broached the hurly-burly world of musical theater, he came perilously close to the nuptial altar. In the summer of   1858 Brahms chose to vacation at Göttingen where he met Agathe von Siebold, daughter of a professor of medicine at the University of Göttingen and the possessor of a fine soprano voice. The 25-year-old Brahms enjoyed accompanying her at the piano, visited her frequently, and fell in love resulting in much local gossip.. Brahms told Grimm that he and Agathe had already exchanged rings in secret, but that he was reluctant to take the decisive step toward marriage because he was still a struggling young musician with a poor income and uncertain prospects. His lame excuses actually masked a deep anxiety over losing his independence. He told Agathe so in probably the most tactless letter he ever wrote: “I love you! But I cannot wear fetters. Write to me whether I am to come back, to take you in my arms.” Agathe was furious, broke off the engagement and did not forgive Brahms for the insult until she was well into her old age. Five years later,  he composed the String Sextet in G major. For reasons he never made clear he wove into the thematic material of the first movement’s exposition a reference to Agathe using the notes A-G-A-H-E (H=B-natural in German notation; T has no musical equivalent). Brahms remained a bachelor all of his life.

The sextet opens with a violin motive that is “positively Greek in its austere and noble beauty,” according to American composer and critic Daniel Gregory Mason. The main theme group is rounded out by an arpeggiated motive stated by the violin as the immediate continuation of the opening gesture and an accompanimental figure of two wavering notes intoned by the viola. The second theme is a lyrical strain given by the first cello. This section gains in intensity until it reaches the AGA(T)HE motive, used as the closing theme of the exposition. The development is concerned entirely with the motives of the main theme. A full recapitulation of the earlier subjects closes the movement. The second movement begins almost in the breezy manner, but quickly assumes the rigorous demeanor of a richly contrapuntal and thoroughly worked-out development section fitted into traditional scherzo form; the quicker central trio is reminiscent of the Viennese waltz. The Adagio is an elaborate set of five variations. The finale is a compact sonata form that brims with sunny good cheer and ensemble virtuosity.


Based on notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda

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