Archive for October, 2012

Mendelssohn, String Quartet No. 6 in f minor, Op. 80

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Quartet No. 6 in f minor, Op. 80, 1847

sunriseMendelssohn’s last complete string quartet is a dark tour de force celebrated for that blistering intensity that music writer James Keller calls “combustible.” Throughout Mendelssohn’s work one finds passionate drama and that signature nervous drive, high strung, anxious and ready to explode. But in the F minor quartet of 1847, the mood is unrelentingly sustained across three of the four movements ending with a virtuosic firestorm, a conflagration of musical angst. Connections with his personal life seem compelling.

At this point in his life, Mendelssohn was immensely famous and successful, but overworked, exhausted and in desperate need of rest and recuperation. Word arrived that, Fanny, his cherished sister and intellectual soul mate, had suddenly died of a stroke. Devastated, Mendelssohn took a vacation with friends in Switzerland and composed his final quartet dedicated to her memory. (more…)

Haydn, String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 76, No. 4, “Sunrise”

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 76, No. 4, Hob.III:78, “Sunrise”, 1797

sunriseHaydn published Op. 76, his last set of six string quartets in 1797 just one year before a young Beethoven would begin his own first foray into the same genre. From approximately 1759 to 1799, Haydn composed 78 string quartets over a period of forty years of which at least 30 are “celebrated” as masterworks of the form. It seems his powers never diminished. Indeed, one feels that he only continued to get better and better placing Op. 76 at the zenith of his achievements. Written in Haydn’s “final” phase, the quartets are bold and burnished, composed for public performance at the height of his international fame on the heels of his grand concert trips to London. The six quartets also stand alone in a special historical context coming after Mozart and before Beethoven. So beloved and enduring are these works that three of them have nicknames, bestowed upon them by an adoring public who, at one time, knew each quartet as we might know the stars at night. (more…)

Beethoven, Piano Trio No. 5 in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, Ghost

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Ludwig van Beethoven, (1770-1827)

Piano Trio No. 5 in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, Ghost

And there you have the whole secret of Beethoven. He could design patterns with the best of them; he could write music whose beauty will last you all your life; he could take the driest sticks of themes and work them up so interestingly that you find something new in them at the hundredth hearing; in short, you can say of him all that you can say of the greatest pattern composers; but his diagnostic, the thing that marks him out from all the others, is his disturbing quality, his power of unsettling us and imposing his giant moods on us.

– George Bernard Shaw

Shaw’s inimitable quote is perhaps the most pithy, complex and perfect description of Beethoven’s music ever penned. And it admirably applies to the “Ghost” trio in every way, particularly “sticks” of themes and giant moods, what to speak of beauty and infinite discovery. The Geistertrio is one of two piano trios Beethoven published as Op. 70 in 1808 at the height of his “heroic” middle period. As with the Eroica Symphony and the Razumovsky quartets before them, these trios represent Beethoven’s great expansion of the genre with fresh depths and lengths of music previously unbroached (and subject to further expansion in the final Archduke). Of the three magisterial last trios, the Ghost may be the most special. (more…)

Recovered Voices

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Recovered Voices
An Evening of chamber music with
Maestro James Conlon, the Pacific Trio and Friends

The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center
October 4, 2012

The program before you is rare, ravishing and revealing, a masterful collection of lost treasures well worth recovering. Between the death of Brahms and the explosion of divergent 20th century trends lay a forgotten world of late romantic and early modern composers, in this case, particularly associated with Vienna. The composers and works featured here are among the most unique and skillful of that era, threaded together by a variety of connections and a remarkable kinship of style, color and expression. Together, they present a vivid and comprehensive evocation of a musical world virtually forgotten. (more…)