Amernet String Quartet

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

with
Nancy Allen Lundy,
soprano
Yizhak Schotten,
viola
Robert deMaine,
cello

Sunday, August 5, 2012, 4 pm

3 pm: Pre-concert talk with Russell Platt and musicians

program

Debussy String Quartet (1893)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Animé et très decidé
(Lively and very firmly)
Assez vif et bien rythmé
(Quite spiritedly and rhythmically)
Andantino, doucement expressif
(Somewhat slow, gently, and expressively)
Trègrs modéré - Très mouvementé et avec passion
(Very moderate, then very lively and with passion)

Transport to Summer:
Seven Poems by Wallace Stevens
(1988, 2008)
Russell Platt (b. 1965)

I. Reality Is an Activity of the Most August Imagination (Introduction and Allegro)
II. The Reader (Nocturne)
III. Of Mere Being (Étude)
IV. A Clear Day and No Memories (Romanza)
V. Tea (Scherzo)
VI. Anecdote of the Jar (Interlude)
VII. Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself (Finale)

intermission

Souvenir de Florence in D Major, Op.70 (1890)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Allegro con spirito
Adagio cantabile e con moto
Allegro molto
Allegro vivace

next week

Saturday, August 11, 11 am | Young People’s Concert
Jon Klibonoff, piano

Sunday, August 12, 3 pm and 4 pm
3 pm: Jon Klibonoff, piano
Music of Debussy

4 pm | Trio Solisti
Music of Ravel, Chausson,
Philip Glass, and John Cage

 

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

The Amernet String Quartet (Misha Vitenson, violin; Marcia Littley, violin; Michael Klotz, viola; and Jason Calloway, cello), has garnered worldwide 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. In their first season, they won the Gold Medal at the Tokyo International Music Competition in 1992. In 1995, they won First Prize at the Banff string 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 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 appeared at Ravinia, Lincoln Center, Mostly Mozart, and major festivals around the world. The Amernet Quartet founded the Norse Festival, a summer chamber music workshop for young musicians at Northern Kentucky University. Currently the quartet hosts an annual summer chamber music camp in Miami
called Animato.

The Amernet has commissioned and recorded works from many composers, including Anthony Brandt, John Corigliano, and Toshi Ichiyanagi.

Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano, has appeared in leading roles at opera houses including the New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Spoleto, USA (with Renata Scotto), and major opera venues in Chile, Rome, and throughout the US. She sang the soprano role in Carmina Burana with the Philadelphia Orchestra, major orchestras in Asia, and Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal at Carnegie Hall. Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun began writing for Ms. Lundy following her success in his Peony Pavilion in London. Ms. Lundy premiered Tan Dun’s opera, Tea, in the fall of 2002 in Tokyo. Ms. Lundy is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Emmy for Fifty Years of Balanchine on PBS.

Israeli-born violist Yizhak Schotten was discovered and brought to the United States by the renowned violist William Primrose, with whom he studied at Indiana University and the University of Southern California. His solo appearances with orchestras have included performances with Seiji Ozawa, Arthur Fiedler, and many others in performances throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. His solo recitals have included Town Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Merkin Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, and other major venues. As a member of the Trio d'Accordo, Yizhak Schotten won the Concert Artists Guild International Competition in New York. He has appeared in chamber concerts at festivals throughout Europe, Asia, Mexico, Canada, and the US. He was the Artistic Director of the XIV International Viola Congress. He and his pianist wife, Katherine Collier, are Music Directors of the Maui Classical Music Festival in Hawaii and Strings in the Mountains Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He is also Music Director of Chamber Music Ann Arbor.

A first-prize winner in many competitions, cellist Robert deMaine became, in 1990, the first cellist ever to win the Grand Prize at San Francisco’s Irving M. Klein International Competition for Strings. As soloist, he has collaborated with major conductors, and has performed virtually all of the major cello concerto repertoire with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he has been Principal Cellist since 2002. Robert deMaine counts among his chamber-music partners violinists Gil Shaham, Ani and Ida Kavafian, and pianist Emanuel Ax, and has appeared at many international music festivals, including Marlboro, Aspen, Heidelberg, and San Miguel de Allende. Mr. deMaine has presented masterclasses throughout the US and abroad, has taught at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan, and has written many works for the cello.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

Claude Debussy sought a new kind of musical language, something that would both build upon and go beyond all that had come before. His only string quartet was revolutionary for its time, and had a profound effect on the future of musical composition.

In his first movement, Animé et très décidé (lively and very firmly), he immediately introduces the short series of notes that will become a seed for material in each movement. After one of Debussy’s signature dreamlike passages, a second, more lyrical theme is added, and each instrument plays each theme with varying accompaniments.

In the second movement, Assez vif et bien rhythmé (quite spiritedly and rhythmically), the viola plays the motif as an ostinato (a repeated pattern of notes) with the other parts playing pizzicato (plucked strings). A new melody is added, but the germ of the motif remains throughout the movement up to the pianissimo cadence.

All four instruments play with mutes in the third movement (Andantino doucement expressif –somewhat slow, gently and expressively). The motif has been turned into a sweet lullaby with Eastern overtones. It is interrupted briefly by a louder and more passionate section, but returns to the peaceful calm and ends with a heavenly chord.

The finale (Très modéré-Très movementé et avec passion–very moderate, then very lively and with passion) starts with a slow introduction that gives a rearranged version of the original theme to the cello. Passages full of dissonances are contrasted with perfect cadences. The final section is very fast, and ends with a violin flourish and a dramatic full chord.

Russell Platt is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and won a Charles Ives Scholarship. His work has been commissioned by Bargemusic, the American Composers Forum, and many others, and has been performed by major soloists and ensembles. He is the twin brother of Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt.

The composer writes: "For some composers of a Late Romantic type—Liszt, Ives, and Ruggles come to mind—there are pieces that are never really finished, only endlessly tinkered with, or which are finished but exist in alternate versions. It is a mini-genre born of a mixture of idealism and uncertainty (of execution, not of idea). Transport to Summer is a product of that spirit. First written in the spring of 1988 as a kind of secular cantata of five songs with string trio for a performance at the Curtis Institute of Music, it was subsequently expanded in 2008 into a longer version for larger forces. For this Maverick Concerts performance, I have made a few minor revisions to this later version. Though these may not be the last.

"I was only twenty-two when I wrote Transport to Summer (the title is taken from one of Stevens’s books), and there are spots when inexperience shows its hand—for example, I would never instruct a composition student to rush through text the way I did in "Reality Is an Activity of the Most August Imagination," either as a method of word-setting or as a way to make form. (Listeners will notice a particularly high level of professional polish in "A Clear Day and No Memories," one of the newer songs). And yet there is a very New England authenticity to the work that, I think, brings its strengths to the fore. I grew up in Connecticut, and my complete embrace of the poetry of Wallace Stevens, our state’s eternal poet laureate, induced me to create a piece that is a microcosm of two centuries of Northeastern musical culture. The legacies of the First and Second New England Schools, of the self-taught hymn writers of the late eighteenth century and of the confident German-trained craftsmen of a hundred years later, are each represented here, focused by the French-tinged harmonies of Ned Rorem, with whom I was studying at Curtis. (Stevens himself was a great Francophile: it all fits.) It is a strange hybrid of a work, but I am still proud of it, nearly twenty-five years on."

Tchaikovsky spent some time in Tuscany in 1890, where he wrote the tragic opera The Queen of Spades. While there, he drafted a string sextet which he named Souvenir de Florence, although the music contains no explicit references to Italy or Italianate music. If there are allusions to private thoughts or events, they will have to remain hidden.

Tchaikovsky wrote of the difficulty of composing for string sextet, since it was necessary to maintain six separate lines while creating a homogeneous whole. In the opening Allegro con spirito, the full six-voice texture provides an immediate explosion of sound, with a vigorous theme and a lively 3/4 time signature. A more lyrical second theme moves to the major and offers dynamic contrast, and the themes are developed up until the intense accelerando ending.

The slow movement (Adagio cantabile e con moto) again uses a 3/4 meter, but here the theme is gentle and mellifluous. Violin and cello trade the theme back and forth in dialogue, and at times one cello plays the melody while the second cello accompanies.

Tchaikovsky includes a Russian folk theme (in A minor) for the scherzo (Allegro molto). A scherzo is usually in a triple meter such as 3/4, but having used that time signature for the first two movements, the composer here chooses 2/4 time, with dotted accents. The central section transforms the rhythm into a swift gallop, with the initial theme reasserting itself underneath, and gradually taking over.

Russian folk songs combine in the Finale (Allegro vivace) as well. One of them becomes the subject for a grand six-voice fugue, after which other themes return and are developed, leading up to a majestic ending.

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 miriam@hvc.rr.com Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg