Archive for April, 2011

Beethoven, String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, 1826

Ludwig van BeethovenWhen the Russian Prince Galitzin approached Beethoven with a commission for “one, two or three” quartets, he helped catalyze one of the most wondrous creations in all of chamber music: the ineffable “late” quartets of Beethoven. After finishing the three commissioned quartets, Beethoven kept on composing adding a forth and fifth quartet and a final revised movement comprising a singular corpus of sustained musical thought and feeling of tremendous scope and arguable unity. All for the string quartet. Spanning a working focus of two years time, these are Beethoven’s final compositions, testament to his enduring devotion to the string quartet, witness to his mastery, transcendence and everlasting dominance of this august genre. (more…)

Szymanowski, String Quartet No. 1 in C Major, Op. 37

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Karol Szymanowski, 1882-1937

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 37, 1917

Karol SzymanowskiKarol Szymanowski is surely not a household name, but he is a worthy composer that is frankly underperformed, unappreciated. Descending from an aristocratic Polish family, he was born and raised in the Ukraine eventually becoming one of the most important Polish composers since Chopin. Szymanowski is primarily celebrated for his orchestral works (including symphonies and two violin concerti), piano pieces and art songs, but he composed a handful of chamber works including two string quartets in 1917 and 1927 respectively.

Szymanowski is a fascinating representative of his time in that his evolving musical interests chart an adventurous course of changing styles and influences that nonetheless emerge in a unique, original voice. Szymanowki’s early influences included Chopin and the “classics” as well as a distinct leaning towards the late Romantic music of Strauss and Mahler. (more…)

Chick Corea, Adventures of Hippocrates (for string quartet)

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Chick Corea, b. 1941

Adventures of Hippocrates (for string quartet), 2004

Chick CoreaChick Corea has enjoyed a distinguished and amazing career as an important American Jazz musician and composer. As a virtuoso on the piano and a variety of electronic keyboard instruments, Corea worked with a variety of noteworthy artists and ensembles including, Cab Calloway, Blue Mitchell, Stan Getz, Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria and Miles Davis. Corea joined Miles Davis just as the avant-garde Jazz experiments of the time incorporated unstructured free jazz and a “fusion” with electric rock music resulting in such seminal recordings as “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew”, both of which featured Corea as a sideman. On the crest of this wave, Corea formed his own band called “Return to Forever” that ruled the 70’s as one of the preeminent “Fusion” bands combining Latin, rock and jazz elements into ambitious recordings featuring virtuoso improvisation and complex long-form arrangements with quasi-classical conceptions. (more…)

Beethoven, String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, 1798-1800

Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3 occupies a noble, if humble, place in history. Though placed third in the Op. 18 set of six quartets published in 1801, this was the very first that Beethoven composed. An antipode to the misty mountain of Beethoven’s transcendent “late” quartets, the D Major quartet is earliest, the first time he chose to publicly try his hand with this supreme and daunting art. Haydn and Mozart and a number of other worthy composers that Beethoven admired had all significantly built a genre of high art in the shape of a four movement sonata for string quartet with a well established roster of formal contingencies (or “tendencies”) all bent on delighting the heart and mind of the avid connoisseur. Here was a rite of passage, a daring moment to entertain a dialog with colleagues, mentors and gods. (more…)

Turina, La oración del torero, Op. 34

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Joaquín Turina, 1882-1949

La oración del torero, Op. 34, 1924

Joaquín TurinaSpain enjoyed a musical “Golden Age” during the Renaissance, after which it was largely overshadowed on the international stage by the prevailing styles from Italy, France and the German speaking countries. It was not until the rise of musical nationalism in the late 19th century that Spain found its voice again with its first modern masters such as Albéniz, Granados and de Falla, whose most well known music was written in the 1900’s. It was Albéniz who provided the necessary connections for the younger Joaquín Turina to study in Paris under Vincent d’Indy and to publish his first work, a piano quintet. While in Paris, Turina came to know such French masters as Debussy, Ravel and Fauré, leaving an undeniable influence on his own subsequent music. Turina produced a sizable quantity of chamber music including several piano trios, string quartets and sonatas, a piano quartet, two piano quintets and a piano sextet. His most well known works include Circulo for piano trio and the evocative La oración del torero for string quartet. (more…)