Archive for February, 2011

Shostakovich, Piano Quintet in g minor, Op. 57

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Piano Quintet in g minor, Op. 57 (1940)

Dmitri ShostakovichShostakovich has come to be regarded as one of the most important 20th century composers. Working in all the traditional genres, he was particularly prodigious with his monumental cycles of 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets. Indeed, despite his early modernist tendencies and his distinctively contemporary and personal sound, Shostakovich primarily worked with traditional forms as well as within a largely tonal harmonic vocabulary. This sense of a modern voice within an unbroken traditional lineage is nowhere more apparent than with his glorious piano quintet of 1940. Impressed with his first string quartet, the Moscow-based Beethoven quartet asked Shostakovich to write a quintet featuring Shostakovich himself at the piano. The result was an immense success earning Shostakovich the Stalin Prize and a cash award of 100,000 rubles often cited as the largest sum ever commanded by a chamber music work. (more…)

Beethoven, String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5 (1798-1800)

With his first set of six string quartets published in 1801, Beethoven joined the mighty ranks of Haydn and Mozart as an “immediate” master of the classical Viennese string quartet. Clearly in the established mold of his predecessors, the Op. 18 quartets variously evoke both Haydn and Mozart while vividly demonstrating Beethoven’s own emerging personality. Of the six quartets, however, it is the fifth quartet in A major that seems to draw the most attention to Beethoven’s study of his forebears, specifically of Mozart. In Mozart’s own set of six quartets dedicated to Haydn from 1785, the fifth is also in A major and was almost certainly a direct model for Beethoven. From a wide range of options, both quartets use the same rather atypical four-movement plan featuring a second movement scherzo and a third movement theme and variations. (more…)

Kurtág, 12 Microludes (for string quartet), Op. 13

Friday, February 4th, 2011

György Kurtág (1926-)

“Hommage à Mihály András”, 12 Microludes, (for String Quartet) Op. 13, (1977)

György KurtágGyörgy Kurtág is a contemporary Hungarian Jewish composer in his mid-eighties living in France. A cursory review of his relatively small oeuvre (comprising about fifty numbers works) shows a strong penchant for chamber music, a genre in which he is also a meticulous master coach. Kurtág has composed at least four works for string quartet bringing utterly modern techniques and sensibilities to this traditional yet infinitely flexible ensemble at the center of chamber music. Significantly, Kurtág chose his first string quartet of 1959 as his official opus number one, a telling inauguration of his mature catalog of published works. His second composition for string quartet was written in 1977 to honor the 60th birthday of Mihály András, a Hungarian musician, composer, conductor and administrator of significant influence. (more…)