Takács’ Bartók House Programme

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塔克斯四重奏之巴爾托克全集

The Complete String Quartets

Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre The University of Hong Kong 香港大學李兆基會議中心大會堂


Welcome to the Grand Hall Thank you for coming to this HKU MUSE event. To ensure that everyone enjoys the music, please switch off your mobile phones and any other sound and light emitting devices before the performance. Unauthorised photography, audio and video recordings in the Hall are prohibited. Enjoy the concert and come again.

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Takács' Bartók: The Complete String Quartets Edward Dusinberre violin Harumi Rhodes violin Geraldine Walther viola András Fejér cello

Music in Words with the Takács 20 SEP 2019 | FRI | 7PM

Takács' Bartók I 21 SEP 2019 | SAT | 8PM

Takács' Bartók II 22 SEP 2019 | SUN | 3PM at The University of Hong Kong

© Amanda Tipton


Tak ács Quartet The Takács Quartet, now entering its forty-fifth season, is renowned for the vitality of its interpretations. The New York Times recently lauded the ensemble for "revealing the familiar as unfamiliar, making the most traditional of works feel radical once more", and the Financial Times described a recent concert at the Wigmore Hall: "Even in the most fiendish repertoire these players show no fear, injecting the music with a heady sense of freedom. At the same time, though, there is an uncompromising attention to detail: neither a note nor a bow-hair is out of place." Based in Boulder at the University of Colorado, Edward Dusinberre, Harumi Rhodes (violins), Geraldine Walther (viola), and András Fejér (cello) perform eighty concerts a year worldwide. During the 2019-20 season, the ensemble will continue its four annual concerts as Associate Artists at London's Wigmore Hall. Other European venues include Budapest, Florence, Milan, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Geneva, Salzburg Mozartwoche, and Prague. The Quartet's extensive list of American engagements includes a performance at New York's Mostly Mozart Festival with Jeremy Denk and complete Bartók Cycles in New York, Berkeley, Vancouver BC, Middlebury College, and Washington DC. Other venues include Toronto, Atlanta, Portland, Pasadena, Philadelphia, and University of Illinois. The Takács will also perform two concerts in Hong Kong and two concerts in Tokyo. Their next recording, to be released in October 2019, features Dohnányi's two piano quintets with Marc-André Hamelin, and his second string quartet. A recent tour with Garrick Ohlsson culminated in a recording for Hyperion of the Elgar and Amy Beach piano quintets that will be released in 2020. In 2014, the Takács became the first string quartet to win the Wigmore Hall Medal. The Medal, inaugurated in 2007, recognises major international artists who have a strong association with the Hall. Notable recipients include András Schiff, Thomas Quasthoff, Menahem Pressler, and Dame Felicity Lott. The ensemble also won the 2011 Award for Chamber Music and Song presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. The Takács Quartet performed Philip Roth's Everyman programme with Meryl Streep at Princeton in 2014, and again with her at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 2015. The programme was conceived in close collaboration with Philip Roth. The Quartet is known for such innovative programming. They first performed Everyman at Carnegie Hall in 2007 with Philip Seymour Hoffman. They have toured 14 cities with the poet Robert Pinsky, collaborate regularly with the Hungarian Folk group Muzsikas, and in 2010 they collaborated with the

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Colorado Shakespeare Festival and David Lawrence Morse on a drama project that explored the composition of Beethoven's last quartets. Aspects of the Quartet's interests and history are explored in Edward Dusinberre's book, Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet, which takes the reader inside the life of a string quartet, melding music history and memoir as it explores the circumstances surrounding the composition of Beethoven's quartets. The Takács records for Hyperion Records, and their releases for that label include string quartets by Haydn, Schubert, Janáček, Smetana, Debussy, and Britten, as well as piano quintets by César Franck and Shostakovich (with Marc-André Hamelin), and viola quintets by Brahms (with Lawrence Power). For their CDs on the Decca/London label, the Quartet has won three Gramophone Awards, a Grammy Award, three Japanese Record Academy Awards, Disc of the Year at the inaugural BBC Music Magazine Awards, and Ensemble Album of the Year at the Classical Brits. Full details of all recordings can be found in the Recordings section of the Quartet's website. The members of the Takács Quartet are Christoffersen Faculty Fellows at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Quartet has helped to develop a string programme with a special emphasis on chamber music, where students work in a nurturing environment designed to help them develop their artistry. Through the university, two of the Quartet's members benefit from the generous loan of instruments from the Drake Instrument Foundation. The members of the Takács are on the faculty at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where they run an intensive summer string quartet seminar, and Visiting Fellows at the Guildhall School of Music. The Takács Quartet was formed in 1975 at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest by Gabor Takács-Nagy, Károly Schranz, Gábor Ormai, and András Fejér, while all four were students. It first received international attention in 1977, winning First Prize and the Critics' Prize at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France. The Quartet also won the Gold Medal at the 1978 Portsmouth and Bordeaux Competitions and First Prizes at the Budapest International String Quartet Competition in 1978 and the Bratislava Competition in 1981. The Quartet made its North American debut tour in 1982. After several changes of personnel, the most recent addition is second violinist Harumi Rhodes, following Károly Schranz's retirement in April 2018. In 2001, the Takács Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit of the Knight's Cross of the Republic of Hungary, and in March 2011, each member of the Quartet was awarded the Order of Merit Commander's Cross by the President of the Republic of Hungary. www.takacsquartet.com 塔克斯四重奏之巴爾托克全集

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Music in Words with the Tak ács 20 SEP 2019 | FRI | 7PM Rehearsal Room, LG1/F, Run Run Shaw Tower, HKU Moderator: Prof. Chan Hing-yan, Department of Music, HKU Composed across three decades, Bartók's six string quartets offer a fascinating insight into the chronology of his musical style. Hearing all six of them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Takács Quartet has performed the Bartók quartet cycle in music capitals throughout the world, where the group is continually hailed for its fresh interpretations. Prior to the two concerts at HKU, members of the Takács Quartet will engage in a conversation with Prof. Chan Hing-yan, sharing their thoughts about various aspects of the quartet cycle, ranging from Bartók's unique musical language, innovative writing for strings, to the group's experiences in performing the series.

© Amanda Tipton

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Takács' Bartók I 21 SEP 2019 | SAT | 8PM Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre, HKU

String Quartet No. 1, Op. 7 (Sz 40) Lento Poco a poco accelerando all'allegretto Introduzione Allegro — Allegro vivace

String Quartet No. 3 (Sz 85) Prima parte: Moderato — Seconda parte: Allegro — Ricapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato — Coda: Allegro molto 15-minute intermission

String Quartet No. 5 (Sz 102) Allegro Adagio molto Scherzo. Alla bulgarese — Trio Andante Finale: Allegro vivace — Presto

塔克斯四重奏之巴爾托克全集

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Takács' Bartók II 22 SEP 2019 | SUN | 3PM Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre, HKU

String Quartet No. 2, Op. 17 (Sz 67) Moderato Allegro molto capriccioso Lento

String Quartet No. 4 (Sz 91) Allegro Prestissimo, con sordino Non troppo lento Allegretto pizzicato Allegro molto 15-minute intermission

String Quartet No. 6 (Sz 114) Mesto — Più mosso, pesante — Vivace Mesto — Marcia Mesto — Burletta : Moderato Mesto

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Six String Quartets Béla Bartók (1881–1945)

Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) string quartet cycle is one of the most significant contributions to the genre in the last century, influencing many composers, including György Ligeti (19232006) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). Spanning his whole career as a composer, Bartók's six string quartets represent his relentless endeavour to create a unique musical language that could express both his modernist and nationalist aspirations. In each string quartet, Bartók experimented with different strategies to syncretize the old with the new, the agrarian with the urban, the humorous with the ferocious, creating spectacular kaleidoscopes of competing musical forces. As the world entered a sea of change in the twentieth century, two important movements emerged in modern music, namely, atonality and neoclassicism. While the two movements had a common goal to create new music that breaks from tradition, the former sought to achieve this by abandoning classical tonality, and the latter by recasting the language of traditional classical music in defunct forms. Two of the leading composers known for these approaches were, respectively, Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), whose music provided much inspiration for Bartók. Their influences are most palpable in Bartók's Third Quartet (1927), where the Prima parte and the Seconda parte presents a juxtaposition of Schoenbergian chromaticism and Stravinskian primitivism.

塔克斯四重奏之巴爾托克全集

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Some early traits of Bartók's approach to atonality can be observed in his highly chromatic First (1909) and Second Quartets (1917), where his progressive harmonic designs operate within the traditional framework of motivic development. In 1920, Bartók wrote in The Problem of the New Music: "The time to establish a system in our atonal music is not at all here as yet." His attempt to establish such a system can be seen in his Third and Fourth Quartets (1928). Unlike Schoenberg, who attempted to eliminate the sense of a pitch centre by avoiding the repetition of pitches until all twelve pitches in the chromatic scale are used, Bartók, while keeping all twelve chromatic pitches in play, tended to create pitch centres through repetition of individual pitches or pitch pairs. Rather than abandoning elements of tonal music altogether, he reserved them for certain structural, dramatic, and expressive functions. In the urgent and exciting Finale of the Fifth Quartet (1934), Bartók plotted a grotesque scene by introducing a dissonant accompaniment to a diatonic tune. Another source of Bartók's inspiration is folk music. In search of musical symbols of Hungarian identity, Bartók conducted extensive fieldwork within and outside of Hungary to collect Hungarian folksongs and of other nationalities, such as Romania, Slovakia, and Anatolia, which might have borrowed from Hungarian tunes. In 1904, he wrote to his sister, "I have now a new plan: I shall collect the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and raise them to the level of art songs…" Most destinations of Bartók's fieldtrips were peasant villages, which he believed had preserved the purest form of Hungary's musical past: "…true peasant music is nothing else than the portrait of a musical culture that has been long time forgotten." More importantly, Bartók believed that "the peasant's art is a phenomenon of Nature", seeing the lack of peasant influence in Schoenberg's music as a downside: "He is free from all peasant influence and his complete alienation from Nature…is no doubt the reason why many find his work so difficult to understand." Bartók's engagement with folk songs in his string quartets went deep beyond the musical surface to reach the natural forces shaping the songs. Straightforward melodic borrowing is rarely seen. More often seen is the seamless and organic transplantation of musical elements — scales, musical intervals, rhythmic patterns, etc — abstracted from folk songs. For instance, the Fifth Quartet alludes to Bulgarian dance by incorporating its characteristically asymmetrical rhythmic groupings: 9/8 in the grouping of 4+2+3 in the Scherzo and 10/8 in the grouping of 3+2+2+3 in the Trio. These groupings expanded the rhythmic lexicon of classical music. Bartók also expanded his harmonic language by drawing inspiration from folk music, for example, the 'highly interesting treatment of the tritone' in Romanian and Slovakian folk songs. Treating folk music as a natural resource to derive 'the freest melodic as well as harmonic treatment of the twelve tones of our present-day harmonic system', Bartók successfully created his own modern Hungarian music.

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The novelty of Bartók's string quartets also lies in his creative use of extended techniques, which do not only enrich the timbral palette but also serve to highlight structurally important moments, such as the end of a passage. Such techniques include the whole bow gliding, sul ponticello (bowing near the bridge) and col legno (playing with the wood rather than the hair of the bow) in the Seconda Parte of the Third Quartet and the fingernail pizzicato (plucking the string) and slurred pizzicato in the Fifth Quartet. In the third movement of the Fourth Quartet, the alternation, on a dissonant chord cluster, between tremolo sul ponticello and sforzandi in the normal bow position accentuates the mystic terror portrayed by the second violin. The Allegretto pizzicato of the Fourth Quartet, composed entirely out of pizzicato tones with various timbres and degrees of accentuation, marks a major breakthrough in the use of pizzicato. Pre-existing pieces played entirely in pizzicato, such as the third movement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 (1878) and Johann Strauss II's (1825-1899) Neue Pizzicato Polka (1892), often taps into the crisp quality of pizzicato tones to create a lively atmosphere. In the Allegretto pizzicato, the percussive 'snap' pizzicato — plucking the string hard to let it rebound on the fingerboard, tinges the movement with a sense of primitive violence. Applying extended techniques in unprecedented ways, Bartók opened up a whole new world of sonic possibilities for the strings. Having lived through two of the most devastating wars in human history, Bartók tended to paint his music with dark colours and, at times, drive it with an irresistible momentum, as if portraying the ineluctable force of history. Emotions expressed in the string quartets are often tumultuous and extreme, reflecting the cultural, economic and political turmoil in the first half of the twentieth century. The insane and agitated rapture of the Allegro molto capriccioso of the Second Quartet is framed by the uneasy and gloomy mood of the Moderato and the Lento. The Sixth Quartet (1939) is permeated with melancholy. Although the negative mood is at times interrupted by some relatively lively passages, the superficiality of the momentary joy is betrayed by the eerie glissandi. With an expanded sonic spectrum, Bartók was able to conduct deeper musical investigations into the intricate human psyche.

Programme notes by Sheryl Chow MPhil in Musicology, HKU PhD candidate in Musicology, Princeton University

塔克斯四重奏之巴爾托克全集

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The Complete String Quartets

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