Amernet String Quartet

Misha Vitenson, violin
Marcia Littley, violin
Michael Klotz, viola
Jason Calloway, cello

Jon Klibonoff, piano

Sunday, August 10, 2014, 4 pm

American Landscapes VIII:
The World of Richard Strauss: Cherish the Émigrés


Piano Quartet in A Minor (Fragment) (1876)
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96,
“American,” (1893)
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Allegro ma non troppo
Molto vivace
Finale: Vivace ma non troppo


Six Little Pieces for Piano, Op. 19 (1913)
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

Leicht, zart (Light, delicate)
Langsam (Slow)
Sehr langsam (Very slow)
Rasch, aber leicht (Brisk, but light)
Etwas rasch (Somewhat brisk)
Sehr langsam (Very slow)

Piano Quintet in E Major, Op. 15 (1921)
Erick Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)

Mässiges Zeitmass (Moderate time)

next week

Saturday, August 16, 6:30 pm
Actors & Writers

Speak, Memory: An Evening of Memoirs by Writers and Performers Past and Present

Sunday, August 17, 4 pm
Trio Solisti

American Landscapes IX: Piano Trio Landmarks
Music of Beethoven, Brahms, and Lowell Liebermann


Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


The Amernet String Quartet has garnered worldwide praise and recognition as one of today’s exceptional string quartets. Ensemble-in-Residence at Florida International University since 2004, the group was formed in 1991, while its founding members were students at The Juilliard School. Amernet rose to international attention after their first season, winning the Gold Medal at the Tokyo International Music Competition in 1992. In 1995, the group took First Prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.

Their busy performance schedule has taken the group across the US, as well as throughout Europe, Japan, Korea, Canada, and Mexico. They have collaborated with numerous artists and ensembles including the Tokyo, St. Lawrence, and Ying string quartets as well as Shmuel Ashkenasi, Ida Kavafian, Ruth Laredo, James Tocco, and many others.

The Amernet has held residencies at Northern Kentucky University, the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music, and the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. They have appeared at Ravinia, Lincoln Center, the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Harvard Musical Association, and at major festivals around the world, including San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, and Bowdoin.

The Amernet Quartet founded the Norse Festival, a summer chamber music workshop for young musicians at Northern Kentucky University, and now host an annual summer chamber music camp in Miami called Animato.

The Amernet has commissioned works from many of today’s leading composers, including Anthony Brandt, John Corigliano, and Toshi Ichiyanagi. The group’s recordings include works by John Harbison, Morton Subotnick, and Stephen Dankner. The Amernet also actively advocates for neglected works of the past and aims to enliven the concert experience through its innovative programming.

Pianist Jon Klibonoff has established a versatile career as orchestra soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician throughout the US and abroad. His many awards include the Silver Medal of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, First Prize in the Kosciuszko Chopin Competition, and a Solo Recitalist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Klibonoff has been a member of the Bachmann-Klibonoff-Fridman Trio, Carnegie Chamber Players, and Associated Solo Artists, and has also appeared as guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Shanghai, Miami, and Lark String Quartets. For three seasons, he was an artist-in-residence for the On Air radio series produced by WQXR.

In recital, Mr. Klibonoff has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, the National Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institution. Klibonoff frequently collaborates with prominent instrumentalists, including flutist Carol Wincenc, clarinetist David Shifrin, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. His many orchestral appearances include the Baltimore, Utah, Buffalo, Denver, and North Carolina symphonies, and he has several CDs to his credit including two recordings of twentieth-century violin and piano music with violinist Maria Bachmann on the BMG/Catalyst label.

A graduate of The Julliard School and Manhattan School of Music, Klibonoff has been on the faculty of Hunter College and is professor of music at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York.





Gustav Mahler was obsessed with the large issues of life—hope and despair, love and rejection, joy and grief. He grew up in a large, poor family, and experienced the loss of several of his siblings. He was more fortunate in his adult years; he had a successful career as a conductor of opera, found favor as a composer from the public (if not always from the critics), and married the beautiful and talented Alma Schindler.

At the age of sixteen, while a student at the Vienna Conservatory, Mahler wrote the first movement and the beginning of a scherzo for a planned Piano Quartet in A Minor. As might be expected from a student, the compositional style is reminiscent of renowned composers, particularly Brahms and Schumann. Nonetheless, the young composer displays considerable talent and individuality. Each of his three themes is extensively developed. The piano is an essential part of the ensemble and not merely used as accompaniment or “filler.” The movement is filled with compelling emotional intensity, presaging the composer’s later grand symphonic style.

In 1892, Antonín Dvořák arrived in New York to assume the directorship of the new National Conservatory of Music. During his sojourn in the US, he wrote the String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, nicknamed the "American," his most well-known chamber work.

Dvořák was fascinated by American folk music, including Native American songs, cowboy songs, and African-American spirituals. Rather than borrowing actual tunes, he imbued his own melodies with the spirit of folk song. He uses simple, folk-like, pentatonic themes in the opening Allegro ma non troppo. The pentatonic scale has no half steps—it is the scale you hear if you play just the black keys on a piano. The development of these folk themes is more along Classical lines, including a fugato (fugue-like passage) at the end of the movement.

In the slow movement (Lento) we hear a sad ballad that has elements of both spirituals and blues, with an accompaniment reminiscent of American Indian drum rhythms. The structure remains fairly constant, with either a solo instrument or a duet singing the tune while the others provide a steady plucked and/or bowed accompaniment.

The scherzo (Molto vivace) opens with a lively 3/4 meter Western-style folk song. The second theme is a minor tune more like an Appalachian ballad. Dvořák wrote that he included a birdsong in this movement, and we hear the high, clear descending major third of the scarlet tanager in the first violin soon after the beginning. In the Finale (Vivace ma non troppo), Dvořák presents us with folk melodies, dancing accompaniments, and a chorale hymn in the middle. Dvořák wrote a note of thankfulness to God at the end of the first draft. It took him only three days to sketch the piece, but it is a lasting, and truly “American,” masterpiece.

Born in Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg grew up in a poor Orthodox Jewish family. The only music he heard was what he and his friends played. He started composing and arranging at the age of eight. Later he learned to play the violin and cello, and got some hack jobs scoring operettas until finally landing a position at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, with the help of Richard Strauss. In classes there and afterwards, a nucleus of avant-garde composers, including Anton Webern and Alban Berg, gathered around him. Schoenberg’s music was evolving and becoming more dissonant. By 1908, he had rejected tonality (that is, composing in a particular key), and ten years later he formulated the concept of the tone row, a particular ordering of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale. This invention, known as serialist, dodecaphonic, or twelve-tone music, revolutionized the field, and had a profound effect on future composition.

The Six Little Pieces for Piano, Op. 19, was written during the composer’s atonal period, but before he came up with the twelve-tone system. He was rejecting the grandiose romantic style, and felt that his compositions should be short and should express various emotions through simple juxtapositions and combinations of notes. He wrote: “My goal: complete liberation from form and symbols, context and logic…. Away with pathos! …. My music must be short…without stylized and sterilized drawn-out sentiment…. Man has many feelings, thousands at a time…. This multicolored, polymorphic, illogical nature of our feelings, and their associations, a rush of blood, reactions in our senses, in our nerves; I must have this in my music.”

Erick Korngold was born in Brno, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and perhaps it was fate that his parents gave their son the middle name of Wolfgang, for he followed his famous namesake in becoming a remarkable child prodigy. Mahler declared him a musical genius when the boy was just nine years old. Korngold was invited to Hollywood to write film scores; these included Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. He decided to stay in the US, since Austria in 1938 was not a safe
place for a Jewish composer. Korngold revolutionized film music, creating scores that could stand on their own as symphonic works.

The Piano Quintet in E Major, Op. 15, opens with majestic piano chords and lush, full strings. Korngold creates the sound of a much larger ensemble by using unisons and triple stops, where each musician plays several notes at once. The grandness of the opening is replaced by a darker middle section which in turn gives way to gentler, flowing passages. The movement ends with a dramatic recap of the opening.

The middle movement (Adagio) is a theme and variations based on a song from Korngold’s Abscheidslieder (Songs of Farewell). The variations are complex, but the distinctive melodic intervals of the song provide motivic reminders and serve as guideposts along the way.

The Finale is especially reminiscent of music heard in films of the thirties and forties. It is full of intensity, with full piano chords and arpeggios, dramatic string passages and solos, and extremes of high and low notes. The music shifts mood many times, as if following the action of an unrevealed script.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg