Jupiter String Quartet with Ilya Yakushev, piano

Sunday, September 2, 2012, 3 pm and 4 pm

3 pm Prelude Concert | Ilya Yakushev, piano

4 pm | Jupiter String Quartet
Nelson Lee, violin
Megan Freivogel, violin
Liz Freivogel, viola
Daniel McDonough, cello

with Ilya Yakushev, piano

program

3 pm Prelude Concert, Ilya Yakushev, piano

Gaspard de la Nuit Maurice
Ravel (1875-1937)
Ondine
Le gibet
Scarbo

intermission I

4 pm Main Concert, Jupiter String Quartet
with Ilya Yakushev, piano

program

Langsamer Satz for String Quartet (1905)
Anton Webern (1883-1945)

String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 74, “Harp”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Poco adagio – Allegro
Adagio ma non troppo
Presto – attacca:
Allegretto con Variazioni

Premier Nocturne in D Major, Op. 2 (1854)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

intermission II

Piano Quintet in F Minor (1878)
César Franck (1822-1890)

Molto moderato quasi lento
Lento, con molto sentimento
Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco

next week

Saturday, September 8, 6:30 pm

Jazz at the Maverick | Fred Hersch, piano
“Autumn in Paris”

Sunday, September 9, 4 pm

Concert for Friends of the Maverick

Tim Fain, violin | Music of Bach, Ysaÿe,
and Philip Glass

Saturday, September 15, 2012, 6:30 pm

Steve Gorn, bansuri flute; Allyn Miner, sitar; and
Ray Spiegel, tabla
An Evening of Indian Classical Music

Sunday, September 16, 4 pm

Final Concert of the 2012 Season
Tokyo String Quartet
Music of Haydn, Schubert, and Webern

 

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev, with many awards and honors to his credit, continues to astound and mesmerize audiences at major venues on three continents. He made his San Francisco Symphony debut in 2007 with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. His performances were included in the top ten classical music events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. He has performed at major venues in Berlin, Vienna, Singapore, Malaysia, St. Petersburg, and Seoul.

Winner of the 2005 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, Mr. Yakushev received his first award at age twelve as a prizewinner of the Young Artists Concerto Competition in his native St. Petersburg. In 1997 and 1998 he won First Prize at the Donostia Hiria International Piano Competition in San Sebastian, Spain. In 1998, he received a national honor, The Award for Excellence in Performance, presented to him by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation in Moscow. Most recently, Mr. Yakushev received the Gawon International Music Society’s Award in Seoul, Korea.

Mr. Yakushev attended the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music in St. Petersburg, Russia, and subsequently came to New York City to attend Mannes College of Music, where he studied with Vladimir Feltsman. Since 2002, Mr. Yakushev has served as Executive Director of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes, founded and directed by Jerome Rose.

The Jupiter String Quartet, formed in 2001, is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (older sister of Meg), and cellist Daniel McDonough (husband of Meg, brother-in-law of Liz). Meg and Liz grew up playing string quartets with their two brothers, and Nelson also comes from a musical family. They met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and finished up their schooling at the New England Conservatory.

The Jupiters spent many of their formative years under the instruction of the Cleveland and Takács Quartets, and continue to adhere to their philosophy of the quartet as a dynamic and democratic union. While enjoying the opportunity to work with living composers, they still feel a fundamental connection to the core string quartet literature, particularly the quartets of Beethoven and Bartók.

The Jupiters won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition, grand prize in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award, and membership in Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two. The quartet also won the 2005 Young Concert Artists International auditions and now holds YCA’s Helen F. Whitaker Chamber Music Chair. Most recently, they received an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

The quartet concertizes across the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and South America. They have also been enthusiastically received at major music festivals, including Aspen, Vancouver, Caramoor, Great Lakes, Skaneateles, and others.

In addition to its formal concert schedule, the Jupiter String Quartet places a strong emphasis on reaching out to future classical music audiences through work in the school systems. The quartet chose its name because Jupiter was the most prominent planet in the night sky at the time of its formation, and the astrological symbol for Jupiter resembles the number four.

 

 

ABOUT THE MUSIC

Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit for piano is based on three poems by Aloysius Bertrand (1807-1841), who is credited with introducing the prose poem into French literature. Ondine tells the story of a water nymph who rises from the lake shimmering in the moonlight, tries to seduce the mortal man, and, when she is rebuffed, dissolves in tears and laughter into the water. Le Gibet is an eerie portrait of a hanged man in the moonlight, with a bell tolling in the distance (octave B flats in the treble throughout the entire movement). Scarbo is a mischievous gnome who scampers around one’s bed at night, creating havoc and terror. Ravel wrote that one of his purposes was “to write piano pieces of transcendental virtuosity which are even more complicated than [Balakirev’s] Islamey.”

Anton von Webern was a student of Arnold Schönberg and a proponent of the twelve-tone serialist style of composing. Schoenberg encouraged him to learn compositional technique by writing single string quartet movements in classical form and style, and the Langsamer Satz (slow movement) is one such work. The opening theme is a song played by the violin, then taken up by others. A more minor and chromatic version of similar melodic material serves as the second theme. Although he later rejected the Romantic style, we can be thankful that this example of Webern’s early efforts was preserved.

Beethoven had begun to explore more unusual harmonies and techniques in the three string quartets of Opus 59. In his next venture into the genre, the String Quartet in E Flat, Op. 74, “The Harp” he goes back to a more traditional style, perhaps in reaction to the puzzled reception his Opus 59 Quartets had received.

The first movement starts with a slow introduction (Poco adagio). The passage is full of appoggiaturas (a brief clash that moves to a consonance), keeping the harmonic progression in suspense. Slow, quiet motion is periodically interrupted by suddenly loud chords, a contrast which Beethoven returns to later in the piece.

When the Allegro proper begins, the violin takes the theme, followed by the cello. Beethoven makes extensive use of pizzicato (plucked strings), including arpeggios (chords played one note at a time) that travel from one instrument to another. Such extensive use was quite innovative for the time, and earned this quartet the nickname "Harp."

The theme of the slow movement (Adagio ma non troppo) is a lyrical song played by the first violin. It is repeated in the minor mode, and then again in major, with continuously flowing accompaniment. At times, the cello takes the lead, playing in its upper register so that its voice stands out.

The third movement is marked Presto, and uses a slightly different format from the usual Scherzo—ABABA instead of ABA. If the rhythm sounds familiar, we should remember that Beethoven had written the Fifth Symphony (with its famous da da da DUM) only a year earlier, also in the key of C minor.

The rhythm slows down, the music modulates simply and chromatically (by half-steps) back up to the home key of E-flat, and the third movement ends on an expectant (dominant seventh) chord, after which the finale (Allegretto con variazioni) begins without a pause. A sprightly new theme is followed by six variations. The last variation becomes a coda which rises to a unison crescendo and then surprises us with a simple, soft ending.

Georges Bizet was a remarkable prodigy and an exceptional piano virtuoso, entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of nine, and once sightreading an extremely complex Liszt piece, to the astonishment of the composer. His career was beset with difficulties—bad librettos, unfortunate timing, and even the destruction of an opera house by fire right before the opening of his opera. He finally began to receive recognition with Carmen, only to die three months later of a heart attack at the age of thirty-six.

Bizet’s music for solo piano is rarely played because of its difficulty. The Nocturne in D Major, Op. 2 begins with a simple pattern of arpeggios beneath a wafting treble melody. To this is added a high, decorated descant, making three complicated voices of different rhythms played together. The piece sounds as though it should be written for four hands, or at least three, but a single pianist has to cope with all of those lines. After a stormy central section, the dreamy opening music returns.

During his lifetime, César Franck was renowned as a teacher and as an organist. He and his followers sought to establish “Ars Gallica,” a new tradition of French instrumental music that would be true to classical forms but also open to harmonic innovations.

Franck’s music emphasizes “tonal architecture” and “cyclic form.” In these structural techniques, motives and thematic materials are not just developed and recapitulated within a movement, but are also carried over into later movements, giving the entire composition unity and integration.

The Piano Quintet in F Minor is Franck’s only work in this genre. In the opening movement (Molto moderato quasi lentoAllegro), a strong descending statement by the strings is answered by a soft melody by the piano. This soft melody becomes the cyclic theme. With extremes of loud and soft, harsh and tender, Franck establishes these subjects that return in some form in each of the following movements.

In the slow second movement (Lento con molto sentimento), the first violin plays the theme, a wistful song of short, disconnected phrases with a simple accompaniment. The cyclic theme, with its characteristic series of intervals around a single repeated note, appears briefly later in the movement.

The Finale (Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco—not too fast, but with fire) starts with rapid bowings in the violins and a new theme that is soon joined by the motif from the slow movement. After extensive development, the cyclic theme is played by the violin, now in 3/4 time, at first sweetly, then in a crescendo to a dramatic finish.

 

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