Shanghai Quartet

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

With Pedja Muzijevic, piano

3 pm Prelude Concert | Pedja Muzijevic, piano

program

Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue
César Franck (1822-1890)

Prelude - Moderato
Chorale - Poco più lento
Fugue - Allegro moderato e maestoso

4 pm Main concert | Shanghai Quartet
with Pedja Muzijevic, piano

program

String Quartet in B Flat, K. 458, “The Hunt” (1784) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Allegro vivace assai
Moderato
Adagio
Allegro assai

String Quartet in F Major (1902) Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Moderato très doux
Assez vif-Très rythmé
Très lent
Vif et agité

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

Saturday, July 14, 11 am | Young People’s Concert
Andrew Appel, harpsichord

Saturday, July 14, 6:30 pm | Four Nations Ensemble, Andrew Appel, musical director,
with Dominique Labelle, soprano.

Chamber music from the eighteenth century on
original Baroque instruments.
Music by Couperin, Jean-Marie Leclair, Johann Schobert, a selection of magazine songs and Medée,
a cantata by Louis-Nicolas Clerambault.

Sunday, July 14, 4 pm | Latitude 41
Music for piano trio by
Schubert, Saint-Saens, and Tchiaikovsky

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique, and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles. Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, allowing it to traverse musical genres from traditional Chinese folk music and masterpieces of Western music to cutting-edge contemporary works.

Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, the Shanghai Quartet has worked with the world’s most distinguished artists, and regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America, and Asia. They have performed with the Tokyo, Juilliard, and Guarneri Quartets, Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, Menahem Pressler, Peter Serkin, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Chanticleer.

Other important commissions and premieres include works by Lowell Lieberman, Sebastian Currier, Bright Sheng, and Zhou Long. The tradition continues with the premiere of Lei Liang’s Five Seasons for String Quartet and Pipa with Wu Man, and forthcoming works from Marc Neikrug and Bright Sheng.

The Shanghai Quartet has made more than twenty-five recordings. Delos released the Quartet’s most popular disc, Chinasong, in 2003. The collection of Chinese folk songs features music arranged by Yi-Wen Jiang and reflects his childhood memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The Shanghai Quartet recorded the complete Beethoven String Quartets for Camerata.

The Shanghai Quartet appeared on PBS television’s Great Performances series, and had a cameo appearance playing Bartök’s String Quartet No. 4 in Woody Allen’s film Melinda and Melinda. 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 1999 film Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep.

The ensemble currently serves as Quartet-in-Residence at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Ensemble-in-Residence with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and visiting guest professors of the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in Beijing.

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic has performed with the Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, and major orchestras in Dresden, Tokyo, Montevideo, Zagreb, and The Hague. He has played solo recitals at Alice Tully Hall, Casals Hall and Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile, Da Camera of Houston, The Frick Collection, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, Lincoln Center’s What Makes It Great Series, and many others. His Carnegie Hall concerto debut was recorded live and has been released on the Oberlin Music label.

His many festival engagements include performances at Tanglewood, Spoleto USA, Mostly Mozart, Newport, Bridgehampton, Aldeburgh, Lucerne, Holland, Melbourne, Aix-en-Provence, Dubrovnik, Merano, and Bratislava Festivals.

Mr. Muzijevic's 2011-12 season includes a return to Zagreb Radio Symphony Orchestra; two weeks of performances of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos on harpsichord with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; a return to Stanford Lively Arts with the St. Lawrence String Quartet; and a Schubert program on a copy of an 1820s fortepiano for Da Camera of Houston.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

César Franck was a legendary teacher at the Paris Conservatory. His students, known as “la bande à Franck,” included Ernest Chausson and Vincent d’Indy. As an organist, Franck’s improvisations at Sainte Clotilde drew capacity crowds every Sunday.

The Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue was inspired by the works of J. S. Bach (which Franck himself played on Sundays) and by the playing of a piano star of the time, nineteen-year-old Marie Poitevin. The young pianist had played Bach beautifully in her debut recital, which Franck called “extraordinary.” He dedicated this work to her, and she performed its premiere.

Franck is known for his use of cyclic structure, in which motifs reappear not only within a single movement, but also in later movements. The dark, chromatically descending themes of the Prelude are taken up again in the harp-like (but still intensely dramatic) arpeggios of the Chorale, and once again in the Fugue, which emerges as a single line without a pause at the end of the Chorale. At the end of the Fugue, the relentless minor mode is transformed into major cascades of sound, like the pealing of church bells.

Mozart said that he learned how to write string quartets from Joseph Haydn. Haydn returned the compliment, telling Mozart’s father Leopold that his son was the greatest composer known to him. Haydn was present at Mozart’s apartment for the premiere of the six quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn in 1785.

The String Quartet in B Flat, K. 458 is the fourth of those six quartets. It was nicknamed “The Hunt” by the concert-going public, who heard hunting horns in the opening fanfare by the violins in the Allegro vivace assai. The 6/8 meter gives it a cheerful, carefree feeling.

Mozart places the Minuet and Trio (Moderato) second. Here the composer reverts to the older style gallant, conjuring images of courtly dancers. The central Trio offers dainty, intricate steps as contrast, after which the noble dance returns.

The Adagio offers a languid aria (in the key of E flat) played by the first violin, with other parts providing gentle accompaniment. At times, other instruments offer comments, but this movement belongs to the top voice.

In the Finale (Allegro assai), the lightheartedness of the first movement returns. Each of the instruments takes an important role—a technique Mozart learned from his mentor Haydn. But unlike Haydn, Mozart’s finale is multi-thematic, combining and intertwining motifs. At the end, the three main themes are played in succession, leading up to a simple but definitive ending cadence.

Maurice Ravel attended the Paris Conservatory, but his style did not match the institution’s standards of what was acceptable musical composition. Despite his lack of academic approval, his music established him as an important composer with the concert-going public. Ravel’s innovations played an important part in the changing of the guard at the venerable French institution, with Ravel’s teacher, the more forward-thinking Gabriel Fauré, taking over the top position. Ravel dedicated his only string quartet, the Quartet in F Major, to Fauré.

The Allegro moderato starts with a warm melody in the violin, while the other three instruments play a repeated pattern that rises slowly in pitch over several measures, then descends. The inner voices are important, even though the violin has the melody. In the development, the theme is fragmented into motivic elements that can serve as melody or accompaniment.

In the second movement (Assez vif, Fairly lively), Ravel makes extensive use of pizzicato and syncopation. The short repeated phrases are climaxed by a bowed trill in the first violin that leaps up one octave and then another. After the second, slower, legato theme, the cello announces, with a plucked introduction, that the pizzicato section is returning.

The viola has the lead for much of the slow movement (Très lent, Very slow). The many rich melodies are all connected to the short motif that opens the movement. Brief repeated phrases abound, and the hypnotic repetitions are offset by moments of intensity. The movement ends with a lullaby-like final cadence.

Loud, repeated notes wake us up for the finale (Vif et agité, Lively and agitated). Sweeter melodies return, and there is a struggle between forceful and gentle, soft and loud, consonant and dissonant. Finally, all four instruments play as one, using parallel chords up the notes of the triad, reestablishing the basic elements out of which this music is formed.

Robert Schumann’s wife Clara encouraged her husband to branch out from the songs and miniature piano pieces he favored. Two years after they were married, Schumann produced, in short order, three string quartets, a piano quartet, and the Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 44, which he presented to Clara on the birth of their first 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 song writer 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 continues 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 © 2012 by Miriam Villchur Berg