Archive for April, 2013

Britten, String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36, 1945

Benjamin BrittenThe English composer Benjamin Britten has proven to be one of the most original and enduring composers of the 20th century. Celebrated for his vocal music, particularly his songs, several successful operas and the War Requiem, Britten was an equally brilliant instrumental composer with a number of outstanding chamber pieces and at least two very popular orchestral scores: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell (also known as A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra) and Variations on the Theme of Frank Bridge. The common element between both works is a marvelous specialty of Britten’s: a theme and variations concluding with a fugue. Both his admiration for Purcell and his skillful penchant for contrapuntal variations come together again in his String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, a work of startling originality, surely one of the most important string quartets of the 20th century. (more…)

Mozart, String Quartet in D major, K. 155

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet in D major, Italian, K. 155, 1772

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartMozart’s ten “celebrated quartets” date from 1782 or later when Mozart-the-man was married in Vienna and “freelancing” his way from masterpiece to masterpiece. Long before the powerful influences of Haydn, Bach, Vienna, and his own maturity would carry Mozart to divine heights of achievement, Mozart-the-boy traveled the European countryside performing, meeting personages and absorbing regional and fashionable musical styles. He frequented Italy and on his third journey there in the winter of 1772-73, composed his first set of six string quartets, the first of which you will hear on the program tonight. Mozart was 16 years old, still living in Salzburg and largely uninfluenced by Haydn’s early quartets nor the contrapuntal exemplars of Bach he would study years hence. This same year, a 40-year-old Haydn published his ground breaking “Sun” string quartets, Op. 20, the first unequivocal masterpieces of the genre. Beethoven was a 2-year-old in Bonn. (more…)