Archive for October, 2017

Frank Martin, Trio on Irish Folk Tunes

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Frank Martin, 1890-1974

Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises (Trio on Irish Folk Tunes), 1925

Frank MartinThe 20th century Swiss composer Frank Martin is not even mentioned in standard “listener’s guides” to Classical music, chamber music or otherwise. A descendant of French Huguenots (devout Calvinists who fled persecution in France and resettled in various places including Geneva), Martin would turn to composing deeply religious choral and instrumental music in his final years producing some of the most highly regarded sacred vocal works of the 20th century. But his instrumental music is equally marvelous. Martin’s most widely known work is the novel Petite symphonie concertante featuring piano, harpsichord, harp and two small string orchestras. Martin played piano and harpsichord and throughout all of his music he displays a great sensitivity to timbre and its combinations in dazzling ensemble textures. Even in a symphonic concerto, he displays a masterful chamber music sensibility. (more…)

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127, 1824-1825

Ludwig van BeethovenBeethoven’s Op. 127 is the first of his legendary “late quartets,” six string quartets that comprise Beethoven’s final and perhaps greatest musical achievement. Besides some aborted sketches, he had not worked significantly in the genre for over a decade since the Op. 95 “Serioso” quartet of 1810. In the interim, Beethoven composed his final piano sonatas, the Missa Solemnis and the 9th Symphony, all magnificent works of a towering stature. The last piano sonatas, “late” in the same profound sense as the late quartets would be, inaugurated several of the stylistic traits of his final period: innovative forms bordering on fantasia, sublime beauty, deeply intimate emotion, epic lengths, superhuman virtuosity and a beautiful obsession with seemingly inexhaustible variation. Beethoven’s final music seems to plumb the depths from the personal to the universal and still, somehow, beyond: transcendental. (more…)

Hindemith, String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

String Quartet No. 4, Op. 22, 1921

Paul HindemithThe chamber music of Paul Hindemith is rare on the concert stage these days. This is somewhat ironic, perhaps doubly so. For most of his life in the first half of the 20th century, Hindemith was considered one of Germany’s greatest composers. In addition, one of his chief aesthetic concerns was Gebrauchsmusik, music for use in everyday life with a practical purpose. In opposition to the increasingly arcane and alienating music from a musical ivory tower pursing “art for art’s sake,” Hindemith hoped to engage the common man, fulfilling his need to make and enjoy music as a natural capacity. Nonetheless, after his death, Hindemith and his prolific output have seemed to largely elude both the avant-garde and the man on the street.

Hindemith was an immensely gifted and multifaceted musician. Showing early promise and becoming a working professional by his early teens, he eventually learned to play just about every instrument in the orchestra, performed as a soloist (viola and violin), toured with a string quartet for several years (the original Amar Quartet which he founded), conducted, taught, became a pioneer in early music performance, wrote numerous books and still managed to compose prolifically and skillfully in every standard musical genre. (more…)