Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (String Sextet)
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Vancouver Playhouse 3:00 pm
In memory of Don Brown, Professor of Philosophy, from a grateful student.
A Night in Vienna
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (String Sextet)
Sean Lee, violin
Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin
Matthew Lipman, viola
Richard O’Neill, viola
David Finckel, cello
Keith Robinson, cello
The Friends of Chamber Music are pleased to welcome an all-star string sextet from the repertory company of musicians at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (“CMS”). We are excited to offer our audience an opportunity to hear an ensemble that is larger than the usual quartet or trio, offering more complexity of voices and textures of sound. This sextet from the CMS is a wonderfully eclectic group of prestigious string players.
Violinist Sean Lee is the recipient of a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, he enjoys a multi-faceted career as both performer and educator. A former member of Chamber Music Society Two, he continues to perform regularly with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His recital and concerto performances have taken him to Carnegie Hall, Festival di Carro Paganiniano, Wiener Konzerthaus, and Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Mr. Lee moved to New York at the age of 17 to study at The Juilliard School with Itzhak Perlman. He teaches at the Perlman Music Program, as well as The Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division. He performs on a violin originally made in 1999 for violinist Ruggiero Ricci, by David Bague.
Violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky performs as soloist with many of the world’s great orchestras. His recording of Andrzej Panufnik’s Violin Concerto won the 2015 ICMA Special Achievement Award. As a chamber musician, he received first prize at the Trio di Trieste Duo Competition in 2011 with pianist Wu Qian. He is a founding member of the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio, and since 2012 has played in a string quartet project with Julia Fischer. Born in Moscow, Mr. Sitkovetsky made his concerto debut at the age of eight and in the same year started to study at the Menuhin School. He is a former member of Chamber Music Society Two.
The recipient of a 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, violist Matthew Lipman has been hailed as one of the most promising young advocates of his instrument. The only violist featured on WFMT Chicago’s international list of 30 Under 30 top classical musicians, he has been profiled by The Strad and BBC Music magazines and performed Penderecki’s Cadenza for solo viola live on WQXR New York with the composer in attendance. Mr. Lipman has performed with the Chamber Music Society and with CMS Two. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees as an inaugural Kovner fellow from The Juilliard School, where he continues to serve as teaching assistant to Heidi Castleman. A native of Chicago, Mr. Lipman performs on a fine 1700 Matteo Goffriller viola.
Violist Richard O’Neill is an Emmy Award winner, two-time Grammy nominee, and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient. He has appeared as soloist with many of the top orchestras. His season also includes a European tour with the Ehnes Quartet, and his tenth season as artistic director of the chamber music initiative DITTO, which has introduced tens of thousands to chamber music in South Korea and Japan. As recitalist he has performed at major concert halls throughout the world, and is a former member of CMS Two. A Universal/DG recording artist, he has made eight solo albums. Dedicated to the music of our time, he has premiered works by Elliott Carter, John Harbison, Huang Ruo, and Paul Chihara. He serves as Goodwill Ambassador for the Korean Red Cross, The Special Olympics, OXFAM, and UNICEF and runs marathons for charity.
Co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society, cellist David Finckel was named Musical America’s 2012 Musician of the Year, one of the highest honors granted to musicians from the music industry in the US. He leads a multifaceted career as a concert performer, recording artist, educator, administrator, and cultural entrepreneur. As a chamber musician, he appears extensively with duo partner pianist Wu Han and in a piano trio alongside violinist Philip Setzer. David Finckel served as cellist of the nine-time Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet for 34 seasons. In 1997 David Finckel and Wu Han launched ArtistLed, classical music’s first musician-directed and Internet-based recording company. Along with Wu Han, he is the founder and artistic director of Music@Menlo, artistic director for Chamber Music Today in Korea, and in 2013, inaugurated a chamber music workshop at Aspen Music Festival and School. Under the auspices of CMS, David Finckel and Wu Han lead the LG Chamber Music School.
Cellist Keith Robinson is a founding member of the Miami String Quartet and has been active as a chamber musician, recitalist, and soloist since his graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music. He has had numerous solo appearances with major orchestras. His most recent recording features the complete works of Mendelssohn for cello and piano. In 1992, the Miami String Quartet won First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild New York Competition. The quartet has also received the Cleveland Quartet Award, the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, and was a member of Chamber Music Society Two. Mr. Robinson plays a cello made by Carlo Tononi in Venice in 1725.
Quintet for strings in C minor, K406 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Menuetto in canone; Trio al rovescio
Mozart’s first composition in C minor was the Serenade for Winds, K388, written in 1782. In 1787, he created the Quintet for strings, K406 by arranging K388 for string quintet. The Quintet, in either version, is a work of driving and consistent intensity. No explanation has been found for Mozart writing the Serenade in the first place, or for his later transcription of it for string quintet. He may have made the transcription to earn some money to repay his debts, as he did offer it for sale in 1788, but without success.
This exceptionally intense and powerful work starts with a forbidding opening motif, played in unison, which is followed immediately by four distinct motifs – beseeching, defiant, flirtatious, and stubborn. A transition leads to a contrasting subsidiary theme, a long arching melody of exquisite beauty, which, is turn, is followed by a third theme played by the violins and cello. The development centres on a large downward leap (a seventh) that ends the exposition’s first phrase. In the recapitulation, the first subject gets a straightforward reprise but the second theme is presented as a variant.
The calm, soothing Andante, which serves to release the tension of the first movement, has two main themes both stated by the violin. The first is an extended lyrical line, while the second contains a four-note descending figure reminiscent of the subsidiary theme in the first movement.
The Menuetto is a stunning display of contrapuntal brilliance. The first part is a lexicon of intricate and complex imitative polyphonic devices. The Trio al Rovescio (“Trio in reverse”) goes even further, showing all of the contrapuntal sophistication of the Menuetto, but adding the complication of having the melody both in its original form and upside down – an amazing feat!
The last movement, rather sober and introspective, has seven variations plus a substantial coda. As the variations progress, their connection with the original theme becomes increasingly tenuous. The last (seventh) variation is very quiet and simple, displaying anguished chromatic harmonies. In contrast, the following coda is a beam of sunlight that bathes the final bars in a joyful radiance.
Verklärte Nacht, Opus 4 Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) (after a poem from ‘Weib und Welt’ by Richard Dehmel)
Sehr langsam (Stanza l)
Etwas bewegter (Stanza 2)
Schwer betont (Stanza 3)
Sehr breit und langsam (Stanza 4)
Sehr ruhig (Stanza 5)
The “unnamed contemporary” quoted by Charles Rosen in his Schoenberg (1976) gives a harsh sentence to Schoenberg’s youthful Verklärte Nacht: “It sounds as if someone had smeared the score of Tristan while it was still wet.” Yet for all its post-Wagnerian excess, the work remains the only Schoenberg piece heard regularly in chamber music halls, to say nothing of its moments of sheer beauty and inventiveness. Written when the composer was 25 years old, the structure of the work mirrors not only Wagner but also Wagner’s anti-self, Johannes Brahms. From Wagner, Schoenberg took his chromatic harmonies and from Brahms his technique of developing variation. Singular to Schoenberg, however, is the development of the tone poem. While he may have looked to Richard Strauss for inspiration on that form, no one had yet translated it for chamber music, a challenging task.
Played without interruption, the five sections of the work correspond to the five stanzas of Richard Dehmel’s poem of 1896, which tells the story of a distraught young woman confessing to her lover that she carries another man’s child. The man responds that the child, because of their love, will be transformed into his, and the lovers continue through the “high, light night” transfigured.
In the first section, the young woman’s despair is echoed by the dark sonorities of the second viola and cello. The second movement with its motivic developments further captures her despair, this time agitated as she makes her confession. The brief third section with its downward direction describes her clumsy gait as she trudges pathetically beside her lover awaiting his rejection. New melodic material in the fourth section reflects his unexpected tender response, which then builds into a passionate climax. The final section symbolizes the transfiguration as the opening dark motifs for viola and cello are now translated for violin.
For those of you who might ponder the end of tonality as realized by Schoenberg in his later works, the composer himself offers the following explanation: “I was not destined to continue in the manner of Verklärte Nacht or even Pelleas and Melisande. The Supreme Commander had ordered me on a harder road.” As Jan Swafford says so eloquently in his Vintage Guide to Classical Music: “Around Arnold Schoenberg, a lapsed Jew who was driven back to the Faith, grew the chaos and anarchy that came to fruition in the Nazi era. He saw it all, felt it all, and resonated with it all. Eventually he would attack that chaos and anarchy with faith: faith in the God of the Old Testament and in a new way of composing music.”
Sextet for Strings in B-flat Major, Opus 18 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Allegro non troppo
Andante, ma moderato
Scherzo: Allegro molto
Rondo: Poco allegretto e grazioso
Although Boccherini wrote several string sextets, subsequent composers largely ignored this combination. While Brahms was probably unfamiliar with Boccherini’s works in this genre, he and his circle of musical friends were inspired by Louis Spohr’s sextet Opus 24, and this work almost certainly provided the impetus for Brahms to write two sextets of his own. He began composing the first sextet in 1857 and completed it about 2 years later. In September 1857 Brahms had accepted a part-time position at the court of Detmold, a castle deep in the Teutoburger forest, a position which left him free time for composing and enjoying the magnificent countryside. His anguish over the death of his close friend Robert Schumann and his unfulfilled love for Clara Schumann were left behind and Brahms was filled with a new-found contentment that is reflected in this sunny pleasant sextet. From the first melody to the final coda, the sextet is serene and placid. Special attention is given to the cello throughout the work. The Joachim Quartet gave the premiere in Hanover on October 20, 1860. The sextet was a great success from its initial presentation and remains a favourite to the present day.
The opening Allegro contains two groups of themes. There are three distinct melodies in the first group: a warm rich line for the first cello, a fleeting descending fugue for the first violin, and a languorous waltz for all six instruments. The first cello also has the principal theme of the energetic second group of melodies.
The Andante consists of a slow theme and six variations that make full use of the different combinations of tonal colour afforded by the sextet. The viola introduces a rugged Hungarian gypsy melody with the first violin echoing the melody one octave higher. The first three variations give the impression of increasing speed with four, six and then eight notes to a beat, although the underlying tempo remains the same. They are interrupted by a hymn-like fourth variation. A charming imitation of a mechanical music box follows in the fifth variation. The first cello’s soulful recollection of the original theme in the final variation gently ends the movement.
Although the Scherzo is short, it is full of energy, setting the toes tapping. The middle trio section races along loudly at a break-neck speed before a repeat of the first section and a final lively coda.
The Finale is a smiling, leisurely Allegretto that opens with a charming melody and a delicate accompaniment reminiscent of Mozart’s writing. Each phrase grows out of the previous one as the movement unfolds gracefully until an accelerating coda brings the work to a rousing close.
Both at the Vancouver Playhouse:
Takács String Quartet
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Matinee at 3:00 pm
Ludwig van Beethoven
Quartet in A major, Opus 18 No.5
Quartet in F minor, Opus 95
Quartet in E flat major, Opus 127
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 8:00 pm
Scherzo, WoO 2, from “F-A-E”
Piano quartet in G minor, Opus 45
Piano quartet in A major, Opus 26