Calder Quartet

Benjamin Jacobson, violin
Andrew Bulbrook, violin
Jonathan Moerschel, viola
Eric Byers, cello

Sunday, July 6, 2014, 4 pm

American Landscapes III: California Style


Arcadiana, Op. 12 (1994)
Thomas Adès (b. 1971)

I. Venezia notturno
II. Das klinget so herrlich, das klinget so schön
III. Auf dem Wasser zu singen
IV. Et… (tango mortale)
V. L'Embarquement
VI. O Albion
VII. Lethe

String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” (1928)
Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)

Andante – Con moto – Allegro


String Quartet No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131 (1826)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo
Allegro molto vivace
Allegro moderato
Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile
Adagio quasi un poco andante

next week

Saturday, July 12, 11 am: Young People’s Concert
Kim & Reggie Harris

Saturday, July 12, 6:30 pm: Lara Downes, piano

Lady Day Remembered
Piano interpretations of music made famous by Billie Holiday, plus impressionist gems by Debussy, Prokofiev, and Fauré.

Sunday, July 13, 4 pm: Ensō String Quartet
with Frederic Chiu, piano

The World of Richard Strauss: The Radical Conservative
Music of Mozart, Franz Schmidt, Erwin Schulhoff, and Richard Strauss



Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


The Calder Quartet, called “outstanding“ and "superb” by The New York Times, performs a broad range of repertoire at an exceptional level, always striving to channel the true intention of the work’s creator. They are 2014 recipients of the Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Already the choice of many leading composers to perform their works — including Christopher Rouse, Terry Riley and Thomas Adès — the group’s distinctive approach is exemplified by a musical curiosity brought to everything they perform, whether it’s Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, or sold-out rock shows with bands like The National, Andrew W.K., or The Airborne Toxic Event. The group has commissioned over twenty-five works to date, working with artists across musical genres and spanning the ranges of the classical and contemporary music world, as well as rock, dance, and visual arts; and in venues ranging from art galleries and rock clubs to the great concert halls of the world. Inspired by innovative American artist Alexander Calder, the Quartet’s desire to bring immediacy and context to the works they perform creates an artfully crafted musical experience.

The quartet has performed at top halls and festivals across the globe including Carnegie Hall, the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Melbourne Festival, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and the Hollywood Bowl.

The Calder Quartet has toured across North America with So Percussion, and has been featured on Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

The group has long-standing relationships with composers Terry Riley, Christopher Rouse, and Thomas Adès. After featuring the music of Thomas Adès (along with Mozart and Ravel) on their 2008 debut recording, the group worked directly with the composer on a performance of Arcadiana as part of the Green Umbrella Series at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The relationship evolved into collaborating on concerts together at the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s Konserthuset, the Melbourne Festival, and at Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. Of the Stockholm performance, The Guardian said, “The Calder Quartet played the most insightful and moving performance of Thomas Adès’ Arcadiana I’ve ever heard.”

The Calder Quartet formed at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and continued their studies at the Colburn Conservatory of Music and The Juilliard School, where it became the Juilliard Graduate Resident String Quartet. They have collaborated with such notable performers as Anne-Marie McDermott, Menahem Pressler, and Joseph Kalichstein. The quartet regularly conducts master classes and has been featured in this capacity at the Colburn School (where the quartet was in residence for four years), The Juilliard School, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory, and USC Thornton School of Music.





London-born Thomas Adès is a renowned pianist and conductor as well as a successful composer. His works have been performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies, and the Boston Symphony. He is the youngest-ever recipient of the Grawemeyer Award, and his second opera, The Tempest, won the 2014 Grammy award for Best Opera Recording. He served as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival (founded by Benjamin Britten) from 1999 to 2008.

Arcadiana for string quartet is a collection of musical images. Adès said that each of the movements was “an image associated with ideas of the idyll—vanishing, vanished, or imaginary.” It has been noted that the odd-numbered movements refer to water in some way, while the even-numbered sections make allusion to the land. In Venezia notturno, rocking motion depicts the canals of Venice, and a wispy musical texture evokes the nighttime. The title, “Das klinget so herrlich, das klinget so schön,“ (“It sounds so wondrous, it sounds so beautiful”), is taken from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Adès references Schubert’s lied of the same name in Auf dem Wasser zu singen, about floating in a rowboat at sunset. The central movement, whose full title is Et in Arcadia ego (tango mortale), is jarring and dissonant. The title is translated “Even in Arcadia I [death] exist.” L’Embarquement is a reference to Watteau’s painting “L’Embarquement pour Cythère,” and also to the harpsichord piece with that title by Couperin. The penultimate movement, O Albion, has developed a life of its own and is frequently played by itself. Albion is an archaic word for England, and this hymn-like movement evokes a bygone era of serenity. The finale, Lethe, uses eerie harmonics depicting the river of forgetfulness in the Greek underworld.

Leoš Janáček did not come into his own as a composer until after the age of fifty, and he wrote some of his best work, including the String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters,” after the age of seventy. One of the main inspirations for his late-life creativity was his passionate, albeit apparently unconsummated, love for Kamila Stosslova, a married woman thirty-eight years his junior.

Even though the melodies and harmonies Janáček employs in the opening movement (Andante – Con moto – Allegro) are nontraditional, the elements do not clash. The composer manages to find irregular chords that retain their sweetness, and strange modulations that do not jar us overmuch. The many tempo changes in this and later movements probably correspond to the lover’s many moods.

The second movement starts with the usual slow tempo (Adagio), but again goes through many changes of speed. We hear moments of anguish and uncertainty, relieved by hopeful passages and a final sigh of contentment.

In the third movement (Moderato – Adagio – Allegro), Janáček starts with a more conversational tone, but this “letter” becomes more intensely romantic as it progresses. The ending is a high, intense cry.

The Finale (Allegro – Andante – Con moto – Adagio – Tempo I) is a wild emotional journey. A pizzicato (plucked) section imitates a strummed guitar accompanying a high aria. Dark, harsh, fast-bowed sections interrupt, perhaps denoting Janáček’s frustration at not being able to be with the one he loved. The sunnier sections seem to portray his intense joy at having found such a love in his life, even though the affair never went further than a kiss.

The love story between Leoš Janáček and Kamila Stosslova has a tragic ending. One dark and stormy night, Kamila was inconsolable because one of her children was missing. Leoš spent the night searching for him in the rain. The boy was found, but Janáček developed a lung infection from which he never recovered. We can assume that he died happy, however, knowing that he had helped reunite his beloved with her child.

The String Quartet in C Sharp Minor, Op. 131, is said to have been Beethoven’s favorite. In this piece, he breaks with Classical tradition in several ways. Instead of four movements, he has seven. The breaks between movements are either nonexistent or carefully timed, so the work is a unified whole. It is longer than all but one of his quartets (Op. 132 in A Minor, “Heiliger Dankgesang”). And instead of the ubiquitous sonata-allegro form, he starts with a grand, slow fugue (Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo) on a solemn and elegiac theme.

The final note of that first movement is the C sharp of the quartet’s home key, but it is immediately followed, without preparation, by the opening of the second movement (Allegro molto vivace) in D major, simply raised a half step and put into the major. This is a lively, dancing movement with dotted rhythms, punctuated by periodic ritardandos (slowing down).

The last notes are two soft repeated chords, and where we expect the third repeat of the final (D major) chord, instead that chord becomes the opening chord (B minor, the relative minor) of the third movement (Allegro moderato). This movement is only a few bars long, and serves as the slow introduction to the fourth movement (Andante ma non troppo e molto cantabile). This is a lyrical song shared by the upper three voices while the cello plays pizzicato (plucked), building to a thicker texture.

This fourth movement has six separate tempo markings, each of which indicates a section that might be considered a movement in itself. The section marked Andante moderato e lusinghiero (moderately slow and coaxingly) is a theme and six variations on a halting, dotted theme. In many of the variations the theme is difficult to recognize, but the final variation reestablishes its melody. Unlike many Classical theme-and-variation works, there is no minore; the movement stays in the major mode throughout.

The fifth movement (Presto) serves as the Scherzo. It is fast, lighthearted, and full of special effects such as staccati, pizzicati, whole measures of rest, and ponticelli (playing near the bridge for a shrill sound). The fast sections are punctuated by more legato passages that serve as Trios.

There is a true break before the sixth movement (Adagio quasi un poco andante), which is another short slow introduction, this time to the seventh and final movement (Allegro). The galloping dotted theme is followed by a second theme with an exotic descending scale. These themes are masterfully developed, then combined in the exciting and fairly lengthy coda.

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