Archive for January, 2006

Dvořák, String Quartet No. 14 in F Major, Op. 96, “American”

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Antonín Dvořák, 1841-1904

String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American”, 1893

Antonín DvořákAntonín Dvořák was the most prolific chamber music composer of the late nineteenth century. He wrote numerous excellent works in every standard form as well as for novel ensembles. His natural and seemingly effortless proclivity for chamber music resulted in a body of work that was unusual for a composer of the Romantic period, a time in which the exploration of large forces, extra-musical programs and expansive, subjective forms had little to do with this intimate and formalized genre most associated with the Classical era. It was characteristic of his time for Dvořák to express his musical nationalism; strong elements of his native Bohemian (i.e. Czech or Slavonic) folk music appear in his music in the dance and narrative forms of the furiant and the dumka respectively. (more…)

Bartók, String Quartet No. 3

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Béla Bartók, 1881-1945

String Quartet No. 3, 1927

Belá BartókMost commentaries summarize the chamber music of Béla Bartók as follows: Bartók made the most significant contribution to the string quartet since Beethoven and his quartet cycle is the most important of the 20th century. These are powerful words. How has this conclusion been reached and what does it really mean? It is quite possible that a lover of Beethoven is, at least initially, confounded by the music of Bartók. How are the two composers related? It is worth exploring this generally universal summary in greater detail.

Like Beethoven, Bartók’s relationship to the string quartet was an intimate, life-long preoccupation. (more…)

Mendelssohn, Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor, Op. 49

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1857

Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor, Op. 49, 1839

Felix MendelssohnWritten in 1839, the first of two piano trios, Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in d minor is probably his most well known chamber composition and easily his most beloved. The first two movements alone deliver more lyrical melody than entire works from other composers. Unlike his classical forebears with their penchant for shorter motif-based themes, Mendelssohn builds his first movement sonata with two themes, both of them expansive, multi-phrase songs of surprising completeness. What is more, these memorable tunes are naturally given to the perfect pair of instruments, the cello and violin. Singing individually in dialogue and combining in harmony and counterpoint, their complementary ranges and timbres imbue much of the work with the intertwined duality of lovers. (more…)

Brahms, Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8, 1854, revised 1890

Johannes BrahmsIn 1854, laboring under the “curse” of Schumann’s glowing predictions for Germany’s new rising star, a young twenty-one year old Brahms decided to publish his first chamber composition, the Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8. This was no small undertaking: Brahms was a fierce self-critic and is known to have consigned several early chamber works to the fire. Thirty-five years later, in 1890, with all but a few final works ahead, the mature, master Brahms returned to the same trio compelled to revise. With his characteristic humor, Brahms claimed, “I didn’t provide it with a new wig, just combed and arranged its hair a little”. His changes were in fact substantial: (more…)

Turina, Piano Trio No. 2 in b minor, Op. 76

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Joaquín Turina, 1882-1949

Piano Trio No. 2 in B minor, Op. 76, 1933

Joaquín TurinaSpain enjoyed a musical “Golden Age” during the Renaissance, after which it was largely overshadowed on the international stage by the prevailing styles from Italy, France and the German speaking countries. It was not until the rise of musical nationalism in the late 19th century that Spain found its voice again with its first modern masters such as Albéniz, Granados and de Falla, whose most well known music was written in the 1900’s. It was Albéniz who provided the necessary connections for the younger Joaquín Turina to study in Paris (more…)