SUNDAY, JULY 9
Ernest Bloch – Piano Quintet No.1 (1923)
A creative modern tour de force, written a century ago, this quintet was well-known in its time but has been seldom performed in recent decades. The Fine Arts Quartet, with guest pianist Wu Han, is pleased to present this masterpiece of mysticism to the Milwaukee public.
Critic Alexander Knapp summarizes the work: “The moods are extreme, and they change dramatically—sometimes with little or no warning. Serenity and meditation contrast with melancholy and savagery; primitive passions yield to poignancy, nobility, and tenderness.
“The first movement is agitated, a neo-Classical form filled with surging power and anxious quarter-tone detailing. Its restlessness is firmly directed, however, to clear architectural and expressive ends. In Bloch’s eerie middle movement, he conjures from tolling chords, ostinatos, thin strands from the upper strings, and harmonic chiaroscuro. The sprawling, muscular finale generates terrific waves of ostinato energy, but he also returns to slithery quarter-tones in places and rests in exotic, fading raptures at the end.”
Franz Schubert – String Quintet in C major, D.956
One of the last works Schubert wrote as he was nearing the end of his short life, there appears to be no challenge to the claim that Schubert’s String Quintet in C major is the greatest of all classical chamber works. Time is very different when you listen to this piece. Critic Melvin Berger sums it up. “Through the loftiness of its conception, the spiritual quality of its melodies, and the masterfulness of its technique, the quintet touches listeners in a very special and personal way.”
The quintet offers the opportunity to explore the lyrical side of the cello with sublime little duets. Throughout the work, the first cello plays in a higher register with the rest of the quartet which leaves the second cello to be completely separate; offering more colors.
THURSDAY, JULY 13
Joseph Haydn – String Quartet in D Major, Hob.III:63 – “The Lark”
One of the most familiar of Joseph Haydn’s String Quartets, Op. 64, No. 5 draws its nickname, “The Lark” from a soaring violin suggesting flight in the opening movement. The ending hornpipe dance in perpetual motion lends a second nickname, “The Hornpipe.” Musicologist Paul Epstein summarizes the four movements – “a story, a song, a dance, and a party”.
Felix Mendelssohn – String Quartet in A Minor, Op.13 (1827)
Felix Mendelssohn’s first quartet, String Quartet in A Minor, Op.13, written at age 18, draws inspiration from the late Beethoven string quartets. The piece is full of beautiful lyrical motifs and melodies. A song without words explores a musical question, “Is it true?” Mendelssohn’s use of drive and momentum, contrasting with moments of repose, creates a balanced and satisfying musical experience.
SUNDAY, JULY 16
Robert Schumann – String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1
This Schumann masterwork is a profound work. Three virtuoso movements culminate in an energy-filled finale that can be breath-taking when played well. The pace is broken by an exciting and deeply romantic adagio that serves as the third of the four movements.
The Fine Arts Quartet published an album of the three Op. 41 Schumann quartets on Naxos in 2006. The recording was hailed by the American Record Guide as “one of the very finest chamber music recordings of the year.”
Antonín Dvořák – String Quintet in G Major, Op.77
Expect a very different string sound listening to this quintet, written to include a double bass.
Dvořák won a competition with an early version of this quintet that caught the attention of Brahms, who subsequently championed his career. Dvořák’s unique style was emerging: rustic folk dances, lyrical tunes, infectious rhythms, lush sonorities, and expansive harmonies. The choice of double bass rather than viola or cello as the fifth instrument allows the cello to sing and adds to the richness of the sonorities.