Jupiter String Quartet

Nelson Lee, violin
Megan Freivogel, violin
Liz Freivogel, viola
Daniel McDonough, cello

Ilya Yakushev, piano

The World of Richard Strauss: Interpreting Tradition

Sunday, August 24, 2014, 4 pm

PROGRAM

String Quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575,
“Prussian No. 1” (1789)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Allegretto
Andante
Menuetto (Allegretto)
Allegretto

Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 13
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

Allegro
Scherzo Presto — Molto meno mosso
Andante
Finale: vivace

INTERMISSION

Chaconne in D Minor, BWV 1004:
Bach/Busoni

Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 (1861)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Allegro non troppo
Andante, un poco adagio
Scherzo: Allegro
Finale: Poco sostenuto — Allegro non troppo

NEXT WEEK

Saturday, August 30, 8 pm
Jazz at the Maverick
Anthony Wilson Guitar Quartet, featuring John Monteleone’s Four Seasons Guitars

Sunday, August 31, 4 pm
Pacifica Quartet
American Landscapes X: Celebrating Elliott Carter

Music of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Carter

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

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). The Jupiter holds residencies at the University of Illinois, Oberlin, Adelphi, and at Atlanta's Spivey Hall. From 2007 through 2010, the Quartet was in residence at Lincoln Center's CMS Two.

The quartet concertizes across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and has played in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and Seoul’s Sejong Chamber Hall. The Jupiter has performed at major music festivals, including Aspen, Caramoor, Menlo, Banff, Rockport, Skaneateles, Yellow Barn, and Seoul Spring.

In 2008 the Jupiters earned an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and Chamber Music America awarded them the 2007 Cleveland Quartet Award. Before that, the quartet won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition and grand prize in the Fischoff Competition.

The quartet owes much of its musical philosophy to the influences of the original Cleveland Quartet and the Takacs Quartet, in which all four members form a dynamic and democratic union. The ensemble places a strong emphasis on outreach work in the schools, believing that chamber music, because of the intensity of its interplay and communication, is one of the most effective ways to spread enthusiasm for classical music to new audiences.

The Jupiter Quartet is named for the planet, which was prominent in the night sky at the time of the ensemble’s formation, and because the astrological symbol for Jupiter (♃) resembles the number four. The Jupiter’s members reside in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Winner of the 2005 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev has given solo recitals at the Bechstein Center in Berlin and Vienna’s Musikverein, and has toured Southeast Asia. In 2007, he performed Prokofiev’s first and fourth piano concertos at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, performances that were included in the top ten classical music events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. He has performed in Glinka Philharmonic Hall (St. Petersburg), Victoria Concert Hall (Singapore), Carnegie Hall, and Sejong Performing Arts Center (Seoul). He has played with the Kirov Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, and others.

Mr. Yakushev received his first award at age twelve in his native St. Petersburg. In 1998, he received 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 Award in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr. Yakushev attended the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music in St. Petersburg, and subsequently came to New York to attend Mannes College of Music, where he studied with legendary pianist Vladimir Feltsman. Since 2002, Mr. Yakushev has served as executive director of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes College.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

Mozart traveled to Germany in 1789, and played for Frederick Wilhelm II, King of Prussia. The King apparently commissioned six string quartets, of which Mozart wrote three, now known as the Prussian Quartets. It took a year for Mozart to complete the set of three, but the first of these, the String Quartet in D Major, K. 575, was finished within a few months of the trip.

In the opening Allegretto, the first violin presents the sweet theme, which goes up the notes of the D major triad and then down stepwise, adding decorations on the descending line. It is an example of the balance and pleasant predictability of the style galant.

In honor of the king, who played the cello, Mozart gives that instrument a prominent role in the slow movement (Andante), writing phrases that alternate with the first violin in a mellifluous dialogue. Reaching to its higher ranges, the cello ends the movement with a beautiful ascending run just before the cadence.

The Menuetto (Allegretto) dances with light, staccato grace, with a few “minor” disturbances along the way. In the central Trio, the cello again takes center stage, with a waltz tune played legato to contrast with the minuet’s clipped notes.

The cello also opens the finale (Allegretto), this time in duet with the viola. Mozart contrasts and juxtaposes various elements throughout this work: rising and falling, leaping and stepwise, staccato and legato, solo and tutti sections, and high versus low voices. In these ways, he builds on the style galant, achieving new levels of balance and musical interest.

Richard Strauss’ father hated the modernists, and held Mozart and Mendelssohn up to his son as the composers to emulate. Young Richard was a dutiful student, until he moved to Berlin to study and heard the music of Brahms. Strauss went on to embrace even more modern models and genres—he is best known for his tone poems and operas—but the Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 13, has an unmistakably Classical to early Romantic feel.

The Allegro opens quietly, but soon explodes with ferocious vigor, still using the same theme. The second theme is broad and expansive, with the strings in unison and arpeggios on the piano. As the movement continues, so does the abrupt alternation of tranquillo and agitato sections.

In the Scherzo (Presto) we hear the influence of Mendelssohn with light, airy figuration. The trio sways gently in the style of a lullaby, before the fast dancing notes return. Hints of the trio section make brief appearances, until the movement ends with a brilliant prestissimo.

The piano opens the slow movement (Andante) with a wistful tune, answered by the strings. A second subject, equally lyrical, is introduced by the viola. The piano is featured, concerto-style, in much of this movement, balanced by moments of dialogue between piano and strings. Brahmsian harmonies give the movement a full-bodied richness.

The Finale (Vivace) moves to F minor, but many keys are explored in this rhapsodic movement. As in the first movement, moments of fire are contrasted with calm passages (here introduced by the cello). The tonal excursions end with a dramatic return to the home key of C minor.

The pianist, composer, and musical jack-of-all-trades Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was instructed in music by his mother, a pianist, and his father, a clarinetist. Both parents kept their son on a strict regimen of Bach. At a concert of Bach’s organ music, a friend suggested that Busoni arrange the works for piano. A day later, Busoni played for her, by ear, the transcription, which he had not yet written down. Thus began a thirty-year project of publishing piano transcriptions of the works of the master.

Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, originally written for solo violin, is organized as a suite of dances, a common musical genre in the Baroque era. Bach always included the four usual dances (Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue) and added one other dance. In this Partita, he concludes the suite with a Chaconne, a piece which has become famous on its own. A chaconne is a theme and variations, and this one has a wide variety of different treatments, including a passage in the major mode in the middle of the piece.

Johannes Brahms was a perfectionist, and scrupulously destroyed his musical notes and sketches. We do know, however, that the Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, was originally written as a string quintet (with two cellos). The famous violinist Joseph Joachim suggested to the composer that the forte passages were simply too much for stringed instruments, and Brahms rewrote it for two pianos. Clara Schumann preferred the string version, and even suggested that it could be made into a symphony. Brahms listened to their advice, but made his own decision: he combined the sonorities of keyboard and strings to create this, his only piano quintet.

The opening movement (Allegro non troppo) starts with a theme that is both tragic and heroic, played with powerful chords on the piano. There are no fewer than five thematic subjects in this movement, and the mood changes many times. Instead of preparing us for such changes by gradual alterations, Brahms makes the transitions sudden and abrupt.

In the slow second movement (Andante, un poco adagio), we hear Brahms the composer of lieder (art songs). The piano sings a lyrical tune in F major with simple string accompaniment. Despite regular rhythms, the constant shifts of stress and emphasis give this movement a feeling of never coming to rest until the very end.

The Scherzo (Allegro) starts with a somewhat subdued introduction, and then returns to the dynamic force of the first movement. Once again we hear a regal theme played in thunderous chords. To start the central Trio section, Brahms repeats the last two notes of the minor Scherzo, transforming those notes into a new and surprising major chord. The final cadence of the Scherzo uses an unusual half step figure (D flat to C) and leaves us hanging, expecting more.

The Finale starts out with an eerie introduction (Poco sostenuto—slightly sustained), with chromatic melodies and dissonant harmonies. In the main part of the movement (Allegro non troppo), the theme is introduced by the cello, then taken by the piano. A second theme recalls the chromatics of the introduction, while another recalls the galloping meters from earlier movements. The piece ends with a series of dramatic descending chromatic runs to the final cadence.

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 © 2014 by Miriam Villchur Berg