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emerson string quartet

oneppo chamber music series David Shifrin, Artistic Director December 10, 2013 • Morse Recital Hall


Oneppo Chamber Music Series

emerson string quartet Tuesday, December 10, 2013 • 8:oo pm • Morse Recital Hall David Shifrin, Artistic Director eugene drucker, violin • philip setzer, violin lawrence dutton, viola • paul watkins, cello

Franz Joseph Haydn 1732–1809

String Quartet No. 26 in G minor, Op. 20, No. 3, Hob.III:33 I. Allegro con spirito II. Minuet: Allegretto III. Poco adagio IV. Finale: Allegro di molto

Benjamin Britten 1913—1976

String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36 I. Allegro calmo II. Vivace III. Chacony

intermission

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770—1827

String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59, No. 3, “Hero” I. Introduzione. Andante con moto — Allegro vivace II. Andante con moto quasi allegretto III. Menuetto. Grazioso — Trio IV. Allegro molto

As a courtesy to the performers and audience, turn off cell phones and pagers. Please do not leave the hall during selections. Photography or recording of any kind is prohibited.


Emerson String Quartet

The Emerson String Quartet stands apart in the history of string quartets with an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than thirty acclaimed recordings, nine Grammys® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year”, and collaborations with many of the greatest artists of our time.

Art.  In a season of over 80 quartet performances, mingled with the quartet members’ individual commitments, Emerson highlights feature numerous concerts on both coasts and throughout North America. Multiple tours of Europe include dates in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Poland, and the U.K. The Emerson continues its series at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. for its 34 th season and gives a three-concert series in Lincoln Center’s Alice With the arrival of cellist Paul Watkins in May Tully Hall, which is focused on the last five of 2013, the Emerson Quartet has embarked on quartets of Shostakovich juxtaposed with a remarkable new journey – one filled with fresh- Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” and the last ness, warmth, and impressive accolades – all quartets of Mendelssohn and Britten. The unifywithin its first ten performances. Mr. Watkins, ing theme in these programs is the preoccupation a distinguished soloist, award-winning conductor, with death. In May and June 2014, the Quartet and dedicated chamber musician, has joined the will tour South America, Asia, and Australia.  ensemble for its 37 th season, and his dedication and enthusiasm have already infused the Emerson As an exclusive artist for SONY Classical, the Quartet with a rich tone and vibrant sense of Emerson recently released Journeys, its second humor. “One of the characteristics of the CD on that label, featuring Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir Emerson Quartet is that its players (the violin- de Florence and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. ists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer and the Future recordings are planned with Mr. Watkins. violist Lawrence Dutton in addition, now, to Mr. Watkins) all have the ability and the in- Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, struments to produce a sweet and glossy sound the Quartet took its name from the American — but do so sparingly. Instead, they establish a poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. chromatic scale of timbres that range from dry The Emerson String Quartet appears by and tart over clean and zesty all the way to arrangement with IMG Artists and records lustrous and singing. Listening to them pass exclusively for Sony Classical. tiny rhythmic motifs around the group, I was struck by how evenly calibrated these timbres were” (New York Times). The Quartet’s season began in Montreal, followed by performances in Tianjin and Taiwan. Summer festival performances included Caramoor, Aspen, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Mostly Mozart, and a residency at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival/Yale Summer School of Music. Late summer dates at European festivals brought them to Berlin, Augsburg, Ascona, Città di Castello, and [Humlebaek,] Denmark, for two appearances at the Louisiana Museum of Modern


Notes on the Program

franz joseph haydn String Quartet No. 26 in G minor, Op. 20, No. 3, Hob.III:33

The slow third movement opens with hymn-like serenity as a stately, rising figure in the first violin is accompanied by chords in the other instruments. Following this, the contrasting Joseph Haydn wrote his six Opus 20 quartets in theme appears in the cello as a tender, weaving 1772, when he was forty years old. These are ar- passage of sixteenth-notes, accompanied by guably Haydn’s first quartet masterpieces, written the upper strings. These two themes alternate very soon after his Opp. 9 and 17. The sets’ nick- throughout, bequeathing a dialectical air to name, the “Sun Quartets,” is due solely to the the movement. depiction of the sun displayed on the cover of the first edition. In fact, these quartets are con- The finale is marked Allegro molto. Here, as in siderably darker than Haydn’s previous sets: two the first movement, Haydn makes dramatic use of the quartets are in minor keys, and many of of silence as the opening four-measure theme the light and jovial moments are tempered by stops abruptly for a half-measure pause. Such more formal and experimental moments. In this pauses recur throughout the movement, giving set, Haydn makes the fullest use of four com- the movement “a mildly disruptive effect,” in pletely independent voices, whereas in earlier Drabkin’s words. The piece opens with a simple quartets he would merge the viola and cello lines. folk-like motif, which is first heard at the beginFurthermore, these quartets employ a greatly ning in the first violin. This motif becomes a expanded range of texture and dynamics. kind of recurring joke, refusing to go away, and Haydn gives it the final word in the cello as the The musicologist William Drabkin wrote of the piece concludes in pianissimo. Quartet in G minor: “This quartet is among the more enigmatic pieces in the repertory. Indeed, – Michael Noble the work is in so many respects unusual that it seems in places to defy interpretation.” This“enig- benjamin britten matic” quality is clear from the first two phrases String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36 which consist of seven measures each, frustrating the listener’s expectations of well-balanced phrases As classical musicians and audiences throughout of four and eight bars. In addition, Haydn displays the world celebrate the centennial of Benjamin a penchant for halting the music in its tracks and Britten’s birth this year, it is intriguing to hear following these silences with unison passages in a work that Britten wrote in honor of another the major key. The juxtaposition of the forceful composer’s anniversary: the 250 th of Henry main theme and the subdued unison passages Purcell’s death. Britten became internationally create the drama in this movement. famous through his operas, which are considered the finest English operas since Purcell’s in the Haydn’s unconventional phrase structure seeps 17 th century. It is thus no surprise that in 1945, into the minuet, which is comprised of five- as Britain was celebrating Purcell’s anniversary, measure phrases. This is an undanceable and Britten chose to write a string quartet in sombre minuet, emphatically minor in character. Purcell’s honor. The trio section offers a brief respite as it begins in E-flat major, but it returns to the minor in Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 is in three movethe second half, modulating down through ments, the first of which the British music critic several minor keys. and writer Hans Keller described as the com-


Notes on the Program

poser’s “most deliberate masterpiece.” It opens features 21 C major chords that serve as a drone with thematic material that is spacious in against which the original theme’s harmonic character. A prominent element is a large inter- motion becomes particularly pronounced. vallic leap of a tenth, upward from the tonic to the major third an octave higher. Against this, – Michael Noble Britten utilizes a few short melodic fragments using more exotic intervals, which lend a sound ludwig van beethoven that is both modern and ancient. A vigorous String Quartet No. 9 in C major, rhythm soon propels the music forward, and Op. 59, No. 3, “Hero” the movement develops as a dramatic narrative with a climax in which all of the themes are richly The Opus 59 string quartets of Ludwig van combined. The range of dynamics, textures, Beethoven arise from a period of immense deveand sonorities is vast, as Britten exploits intricate lopment in the life of the composer. Beethoven’s polyphony as well as robust unisons with almost style had matured, and these works significantly orchestral force. advanced the medium as a whole. Composed as a commission for Count Andreas Razumovsky, The middle movement is a scherzo with an un- these quartets assume a grandeur and ambition settling freneticism that one associates more with previously unseen in Beethoven’s works. This Shostakovich, a friend and composer whom was around the same time that Beethoven was Britten greatly admired. Here the music ranges composing the “Eroica” Symphony. from unisons to delicate contrapuntal textures. The trio section features the first violin boldly In these quartets, it became evident that the playing in loud double-stops over the subdued technical demands Beethoven required could no accompaniment of the other three instruments. longer be met by the amateur salon players usually performing chamber music of the time. Instead, The bulk of the quartet is found in the third the noted concert violinist Isaac Schuppanzigh, movement, which lasts approximately 18 minutes. a friend of the composer, and his eponymous The music critic and historian James Keller sug- quartet (arguably among the first professional gests that one can find a miniature four- quartets of the time) presented the Opus 59 movement quartet within the Chacony. In this quartets in recital, ushering in the era of public movement one finds Britten’s tribute to Purcell: performance of chamber music. “Chacony” is Purcell’s term for chaconne. A chaconne is a set of variations based on a short, The Razumovsky quartets, in honor of their recurring harmonic progression over a repeated patron’s heritage, all are said to have varying bass line, and this was a form that Purcell had degrees of “Russian flavor.” While the first two mastered. Britten’s Chacony comprises 21 seem to employ actual Russian melodies, the third variations divided into four sets, which are embodies a noble character that for Beethoven delineated by solo cadenzas in the cello, viola, epitomized the spirit of the culture. This last and first violin, respectively. quartet is sometimes given the subtitle “Hero” in recognition of its grand conclusion that Britten’s own program notes for the premiere emphatically asserts the noble C major tonality explained that each of the four sets explores a (mirroring the theme of the contemporaneous particular mode of variation: harmonic, rhythmic, “Eroica” Symphony, and foreshadowing the C melodic, and “formal aspects.” The last variation major victory in the epic Fifth Symphony).


Notes on the Program

The third quartet opens with a mysterious diminished seventh chord that leaves the tonality of the work in question. After a wandering explorative Andante, the listener is finally led to the true home key with the advent of the Allegro. Its opening motive of quarter-quarterhalf note is taken to full advantage in the development, which ascends in drama until the relaxing arpeggiated first violin line that leads back to the recapitulation. The coda recalls this trajectory, and the movement ends once again solidly in C major. A shocking pizzicato in the cello introduces the second movement Andante, a melancholic line likely inspired by Russian folk melodies. Several times, the lament opens up nostalgically to a lilting slow dance in three, but each time, it dissolves back into the original woeful melody. Beethoven turns to classical models with the third movement Minuetto, recalling elements of works of Mozart and his own teacher, Joseph Haydn. The middle trio is a bit more boisterous, but even here is restrained and grounded before the return of the Minuetto. This restraint, however, is not present for long with the breathtaking Finale. The movement begins with a theme introduced by the viola and taken up by each of the instruments. Beethoven juxtaposes fugal presentations of this theme (as in the beginning) with renderings of it with accompaniment, which jointly create an exciting accumulation of sound and drama. The ongoing sixteenth notes propel the momentum forwards, bringing the quartet to a blistering and victorious conclusion. – Anna Pelczer


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Upcoming Events

Beethoven Concerti december 11 Morse Recital Hall | Wednesday | 8 pm Horowitz Piano Series Faculty pianists Hung-Kuan Chen, Melvin Chen, and Wei-Yi Yang are the soloists in three Beethoven concerti. With the Yale Philharmonia, conducted by Shinik Hahm. Tickets start at $15, Students $8

New Music for Orchestra december 12 Woolsey Hall | Thursday | 8 pm Shinik Hahm, conductor. Music by graduate composers Bálint Karosi, James Rubino, Brendon Randall-Myers, and Benjamin Wallace. Free Admission

Martin Jean, organ december 14 Great Organ Music at Yale Christ Church | Saturday | 8 pm Music of Messiaen. Presented by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Free Admission

Ransom Wilson, flute & Melvin Chen, piano january 15 Faculty Artist Series Morse Recital Hall | Wednesday | 8 pm Free Admission

Piano Studio Recital january 21 Morse Recital Hall | Tuesday | 8 pm Students in the studio of Hung-Kuan Chen will perform an evening of piano music. Free Admission

Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique january 24 Yale Philharmonia Woolsey Hall | Friday | 8 pm Shinik Hahm, conductor; Peter Frankl, piano. Debussy: Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun; Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, “Pathétique.” Free Admission

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Emerson String Quartet