Shanghai Quartet

Weigang Li, violin
Yi-Wen Jiang,
violin
Honggang Li,
viola
Nicholas Tzavaras,
cello

Ran Dank, piano

Sunday, June 28, 4 pm

Today's concert is a reprise of
one of the first programs performed at Maverick,
one hundred years ago.

program

String Quartet No. 66 in D Major, Op.77, No. 1 (1799) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Allegro moderato
Adagio
Menuetto: Presto
Finale: Presto

Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, for cello and piano (1881)
Max Bruch (1838-1920)

intermission

Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44 (1842)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Allegro brillante
In modo d'una Marcia – Poco largamente
Scherzo: Molto vivace – Trio I – Trio II – L’istesso tempo
Allegro ma non troppo


NEXT WEEK

Friday, July 3, 7 pm
Simone Dinnerstein, piano: J.S. Bach,
Goldberg Variations


A Benefit Concert


Saturday July 4, 11 am
YOUNG PEOPLE'S CONCERT
Elizabeth Mitchell & Family

Saturday July 4, 6 pm
Adam Tendler, piano
Music by John Cage and Woodstock
composer Henry Cowell


Sunday, July 5, 4 pm
Fred Hand, guitar; Paula Robison, flute
Songs Without Words: Bar-Illan

Italian serenades and love songs; American “songs of the spirit”; Sephardic songs; and the world premiere of a composition by Frederic Hand, commissioned by 
Maverick Concerts to celebrate the centenary and supported
by a gift from Willetta Warberg

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique, and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet (Weigang Li, violin; Yi-Wen Jiang, violin; Honggang Li, viola; and Nicholas Tzavaras, cello) is one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire. The quartet was formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983. This performance marks their twenty-fifth annual appearance at Maverick Concerts.

The Quartet has a long history of championing new music. The group’s thirtieth anniversary season brought commissions by David Del Tredici, Australian composer Carl Vine, Jeajoon Ryu, Lei Liang, and Robert Aldridge. Their twenty-fifth anniversary season featured commissions by Penderecki, Chen Yi, Vivian Fung, and jazz pianist Dick Hyman. Other important commissions and premieres include works by Bright Sheng, Lowell Lieberman, Sebastian Currier, Marc Neikrug, and Zhou Long.

The Shanghai Quartet has an extensive discography of more than thirty recordings, including the complete Beethoven String Quartets, a seven-disc project. The quartet’s most popular disc, Chinasong, is a collection of Chinese folk songs arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang reflecting on his childhood memories of the Cultural Revolution in China.

A diverse and interesting array of media projects include a cameo appearance playing Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda. The Quartet has been featured on PBS’s Great Performances series. Violinist Weigang Li appeared in the documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, and the family of cellist Nicholas Tzavaras was the subject of the film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep.

The Shanghai Quartet currently serves as Quartet-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University; as Ensemble-in-Residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestral; and as visiting guest professors of the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing. They are proudly sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld Strings.

Pianist Ran Dank deploys his brilliant technique with astonishing energy, intellect and intensity, captivating audiences and critics alike. In recent seasons, he has performed at Merkin Hall and Alice Tully Hall, and has toured with his duo partner and wife, pianist Soyeon Kate Lee. The New York Times reviewer was “absorbed and exhilarated” by their performance of the world premiere of Fredric Rzewk’'s Four Hands at New York City’s (le) Poisson Rouge.

Mr. Dank has appeared as soloist with orchestras around the US and in Europe. In his native Israel, he has performed with the major symphony orchestras and at the Israel Conservatory of Music. Mr. Dank won First Prize at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition, as well as prizes at the Naumburg and Sydney competitions.

Mr. Dank earned his bachelor’s degree from Tel Aviv University and his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax and Joseph Kalichstein. He is currently pursuing his doctorate with Ursula Oppens and Richard Goode at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Mr. Dank was recently appointed to the faculty of the University of Charleston as Director of Piano Studies and the Artistic Director of the university’s International Piano Series.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

Maverick Concerts has the distinction of being the oldest
continuous professional summer chamber music festival in the United States. This summer, Maverick is proud to celebrate its one-hundredth season of world-class music in the woods. Alexander Platt, Maverick’s music director, has programmed an exciting season of chamber music, jazz, and folk concerts, including three world premiere works commissioned especially for the centennial. This will be a memorable year for Maverick and for Woodstock.

This concert is a re-creation of a program presented at the Maverick Concert Hall during very first summer that it held performances.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Joseph Haydn was the elder statesman of music. His obligations at the princely court of Esterháza were finished, and he had made two visits to London, where his music was widely acclaimed. He was now free to write for other patrons, and dedicated the two quartets of his Opus 77 to Prince Galitzin (the Russian ambassador to Vienna who also commissioned Beethoven’s late quartets). Over his career, Haydn made the string quartet into the pre-eminent genre of chamber music. These late quartets are considered his greatest.

In the opening Allegro moderato of the String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1, a short dotted motif is accompanied by a sturdy march beat. The motif is highly developed, taken into different keys, put into the minor mode, and traded among the instruments.

The Adagio makes use of the cantabile (song-like) line, as is common in slow movements. After the quartet presents the theme in unison, the violin and cello take solos as the other lines provide a simple accompaniment. This beautifully mellifluous movement imparts an overall feeling of peace and serenity.

Although Haydn names the third movement a minuet (Menuetto: Presto), the rhythmic feel is one beat to a measure rather than three, and it has none of the genteel feeling of the courtly dance. The central section, (known as the Trio because in early courts it would be played on just three instruments rather than the whole orchestra) has a more rustic feeling, its emphatic bass lines contrasting with the delicate high melodies of the earlier section. The Minuet returns to round out the movement.

In the Finale (Presto) we are reminded of the playful side of Haydn. The light-hearted theme becomes the material for flights of fancy on all sides, now delicate and now full-bodied, all leading up to a satisfying final cadence.

Max Bruch was a German Romantic composer and conductor who wrote prolifically in many musical genres. In the battle between Brahmsian and Wagnerian styles, he stood resolutely in the camp of Brahms. He held successful posts all over Germany, and spent three years as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. He visited the US in 1883 and conducted several choral societies.

His work often incorporates folk songs, including tunes from Scotland, Sweden, and Russia. Influenced by his mentor, Ferdinand Hiller (to whom Robert Schumann dedicated his piano concerto), Bruch used Hebrew melodies in his Kol Nidrei, Op. 47.

When the Third Reich rose to power, they set out to purge Jewish influences in all the arts, and Bruch’s music was banned, since it was assumed that only a Jewish composer would set Hebrew melodies. Bruch had no Jewish ancestry, however, and was raised Catholic. Nevertheless, the Nazis managed to quash most of his music; we still feel the effect of this suppression today, and few works from his substantial catalog are widely performed.

Bruch completed the Kol Nidrei while he was in Liverpool. Its subtitle is Adagio on Two Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra. The first theme is taken from the Yom Kippur service, and the cello imitates the mournful minor melody of the chazzan (cantor). Bruch borrowed the second theme from Isaac Nathan’s arrangement of “O Weep for Those that Wept on Babel’s Stream,” a poem by Lord Byron from his collection Hebrew Melodies.

In 1840, Robert Schumann married Clara Wieck, over her father’s objections. In that same year, he composed a large number of songs. As a pianist, a writer, and a miniaturist (a composer of small pieces), he found the song format well suited to his gift. But Clara, an accomplished pianist and composer herself, encouraged him to work in larger forms. Two years later, Schumann produced, in short order, three string quartets, a piano quartet, and the Piano Quintet in E flat Major, Op. 44. He referred to these pieces as his children, newborn but already beautifully formed. He presented the Quintet to his wife on the birth of their child.

Schumann opens the Allegro brillante with a powerful statement by all of the instruments. After some development of this subject, the cello and viola introduce a lyrical tune as a contrast. The piano has a starring role throughout the quintet, especially in this exciting movement.

The slow movement (In modo d’una marcia) is a funereal march, given a halting quality by liberal use of rests. Schumann the songwriter presents a second subject (Poco largamente) with a romantic character, and then a third, dramatic theme in minor, marked Agitato. These contrasting moods are alternated, juxtaposed, and woven together.

In the Scherzo, first the piano and then the strings explore the thematic possibilities of ascending and descending major scales. Instead of the usual central Trio section, Schumann writes two distinct Trios. The first is a slow, quiet tune introduced by the first violin in descending fifths. After a repeat of the Scherzo, the second Trio comes in, based on a tightly contoured run in the lower registers. Once again, the scalar theme enters, giving this Scherzo (typically ABA) a rondo-like structure (ABACA).

The intense writing, sharp contrasts, and wealth of musical subjects continue in the Finale (Allegro ma non troppo). Sometimes two themes are played against one another; at other times Schumann varies the texture by using different combinations of instruments. What sounds like a final cadence is revealed as a transition to a fugal treatment of the main theme, combined with the main theme of the first movement, giving this work cyclic structure and unity.

 

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 © 2015 by Miriam Villchur Berg