Archive for February, 2017

Haydn, String Quartet D Major, Op. 1, No. 3

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

String Quartet D Major, Op. 1, No. 3, (c. 1757-1762)

Joseph Haydn Haydn is justly regarded as the mighty pioneer of the string quartet for, though he may not have been the very first, he proved the exemplar, firmly establishing the genre with a stunning collection of 68 works, nearly half of which are regarded as masterworks. Concert programs rarely feature any of his quartets before Op. 20 (1772) and Haydn himself, when compiling his official catalog late in life, declared his Op. 9 (1769) to be his first group of “real” quartets. But Haydn began his journey with a series of pieces genuinely scored for string quartet and published in collections under various early titles such as cassation, divertimento and serenade as Op. 1 and Op. 2. Although the precise dates are unknown, scholars believe that Haydn composed these initial 10 quartets between 1757 and 1762, suggesting that the string quartet tradition is now at least 250 years old. Tonight, you will hear not only a very early Haydn string quartet but perhaps, according to some scholars, his very first: the String Quartet in D Major, Op. 1, No. 3. (more…)

Weinberg, String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 66

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996)

String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 66, (1959)

Mieczysław WeinbergMieczysław Weinberg (known by a variety of names including Moishe Vainberg) was a brilliant, prodigious 20th Century Soviet composer of Polish birth. Born in Warsaw, as a youth he was pianist and ensemble leader for his father’s Jewish theatre. Weinberg entered the Warsaw conservatory at the age of 12 where his talents as pianist earned him a potential opportunity to study in America, but WWII interceded. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1941, Weinberg fled to Minsk while his parents and sister, left behind, were murdered. In Minsk, he began formal studies in composition but within just a few years, when the Germans pressed on into Russia, Weinberg fled again, this time to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where Weinberg would meet his future wife, work for the local opera and submit the score of his first symphony to Shostakovich. 13 years his senior, Shostakovich was so impressed that he arranged for Weinberg to move to Moscow where he would live for the rest of his life in close proximity to Shostakovich, who became his mentor, colleague and friend. (more…)

Foote, Piano Trio No. 2 in B-flat Major

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Arthur Foote, 1853-1936

Piano Trio No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 65, 1908

Arthur FooteDespite a recent revival through a number of recordings by Naxos, the American composer Arthur Foote, though well respected in his time, has largely been forgotten. Born in 1853, Foote would have been old enough to be the father of Charles Ives, the grandfather of Aaron Copland. Two facts make Arthur Foote a noteworthy American composer: he was the first classical composer wholly trained within the United States (vs. travelling to Europe), and, he was the first to earn an MA in music from any American institution, in his case, Harvard. Foote made a good living as a professional musician by playing organ, teaching piano and composing, spending his life in Boston close to Harvard where he enjoyed a variety of fruitful associations. Foote composed songs, anthems, choral music, and several orchestral pieces, but he most outstanding achievement was his admirable corpus of chamber music comprising three string quartets, a piano quartet and quintet and two piano trios among other works. In his chamber works in particular, one finds finely-crafted works in a mid-19th century Romantic style showing the influence of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Dvořák while displaying Foote’s own genuine talents for melody, color and narrative form. (more…)