Tryon Concert Association Presents
Juilliard String Quartet
Thursday, November 15, 2018
String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op.77
I. Allegro moderato
II. Menuetto: Presto, ma non troppo
IV. Finale: Vivace assai
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
String Quartet No. 3
I. Prima parte
II. Seconda parte
III. Ricapitulazione della prima parte
Bela Bartok (1881-1945)
String Quartet in E Minor
Op. 59, No. 2
IV. Finale: Presto
Ludwig van Beethoven
The Juilliard String Quartet appears by arrangement with Colbert Artists Management
A footnote on applause: The spirit and beauty of the music will be enhanced for both the performer and the audience by saving your applause until the completion of the last movement of each composition.
Note on the Artists
Established in 1946 at The Juilliard School in New York, the Juilliard String Quartet has been quartet-in-residence at the institution since its inception. Awards have been many, including four Grammys and membership in the National Academy Recording Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. The Juilliard Quartet has toured throughout the world and in 1961 was the first American string quartet to visit the Soviet Union.
Recordings by the quartet number over 100, ranging from the Classical era to the present. These recordings also include the soundtrack of the Beethoven movie Immortal Beloved.
The quartet performs everything from Bach to Bartok as well as many newly commissioned works. As described by one of the founding members, Robert Mann, “I hope our quartet plays the classical music as if it had just been composed and the contemporary music as if it were classical.” In 2011 the group was awarded the NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award for its outstanding contributions to recorded classical music.
The members of the quartet have changed several times over the course of the ensemble’s 70-year career. Areta Zhulla joins the Juilliard Quartet as first violinist beginning this 2018-19 season. Praised by audiences and critics alike for his insightful artistry, violinist Ronald Copes has received international acclaim as concerto soloist. Violist Roger Tapping has performed frequently as a guest with many distinguished quartets from the U.S. and Europe, and he was a member of the Boston Chamber Music Society. Astrid Schween, cellist, remains active as a soloist, appearing this season in Boston, Oakland, Memphis, the International Cello Institute, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and with the Boulder Philharmonic, performing the Elgar concerto. Today the Juilliard Quartet remains one of the most famous and well-respected string quartets in the world.
Notes on the Program
String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 77
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Franz Joseph Haydn lived from the end of the Baroque era through the Classical age to the beginning of the Romantic period. Instrumental music grew significantly during this time. He is remembered today for his innovative ways with the development of several musical genres including the symphony, string quartet and other styles.
In the category of the string quartet, he became such a master that he is often called the “Father of the String Quartet.” He didn’t invent the string quartet – rather he modernized it. His early quartets were intended for private salon performance and were of a subdued nature, with the first violin taking the lead and other instruments serving as accompaniment. In later years Haydn’s string quartets were composed for public use and were of a more technically difficult and sophisticated nature. Haydn wrote sixty-eight quartets, far more than any other of the great composers.
In 1799 Johann Peter Salomon, a well-known violinist in the city of London, commissioned the last two string quartets that Haydn would write. The second of these, Op. 77 in F Major, is a spirited work filled with the vigor of a young composer, but with the craftsmanship of an experienced and confident composer. The opening movement is graceful, simple and unhurried. Next comes the Minuet, a peasant dance theme where Haydn plays jokes with the rhythm seeming to come in with a few “wrong beats.” In the Andante we hear a duet between the first violin and cello. The final movement, Vivace, is in the spirit of the folk dance known as the polonaise.
Haydn was in poor health in his final years and died in the city of Vienna as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city. At this point he was a rich man of world renown.
String Quartet No. 3
Bela Bartok (1881-1945)
Hungarian-born Bela Bartok showed his musical precocity in early childhood picking out tunes on the piano and composing little pieces at age five. Being a sickly child – bronchitis, pneumonia, and skin diseases – resulted in his having little contact with other youth. Music became his refuge. Bartok went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, concentrating on piano and composition. He then remained as a faculty member at the Academy for thirty years. Today Bartok is remembered in particular as an ethnomusicologist – one who studies the music of a region, and in his case, the peasant music of the Hungarian countryside. He and his fellow composer, Zoltan Kodaly, spent years tracking through the hinterland of this region collecting songs. His searching led him to Rumania, Transylvania, Serbo-Croatia and Bulgaria, and later even to North Africa and Turkey.
Also, Bartok is considered one of the most significant composers of the string quartet since Beethoven. His six mature quartets span a period of thirty years. The music of these works shows dramatic evolution in form, technical means, tonality, rhythm and musical content. String Quartet No. 3 is the shortest of the cycle and is probably the most “difficult” music of the group. It was completed in 1927 when Bartok was 46 years old. He entered the quartet in a competition sponsored by the Musical Fund of Philadelphia, and that same year he made his first visit to the USA for a concert tour. Back in Budapest the following year Bartok was surprised to learn that he had shared first prize in the contest with the Italian composer Alfredo Casella. Always in financial straits, the $3,000 prize he received was of great help to him.
String Quartet No. 3 is written as one continuous movement, consisting of four parts. The opening “Prima parte” is slow followed by a rapid “Seconda parte.” Then a recapitulation of part one, “Ricapitulazione della prima parte” is followed by a Coda. His concept of continuous thematic variation and transformation came from his studies of the improvisations and embellishments of folk music.
Bartok uses non-traditional harmonies which can sound harsh and dissonant at first hearing, but with repeated listening the ear begins to accept them as a natural idiom. As the Hungarian music critic Aladar Toth said of Bartok’s harmonies, “This music seems to slide into one’s ear.”
This work explores several unusual instrumental techniques, including sul ponticello (playing with the bow as close as possible to the bridge) col legno (playing with the wood rather than the hair of the bow) and glissandi (sliding from one note to another).
String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2, “2nd Razumovsky”
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven is considered one of the most influential and revolutionary composers of all time. Born into the Classical era of music with its stylized architecture and restraints, Beethoven would leave the musical world a changed place. In his young days he was a student of Joseph Haydn in Vienna. Their temperaments and personalities clashed, but there in Vienna Beethoven quickly won success as a pianist and composer.
Despite his “common” background Beethoven’s strong personality allowed him to attain a position of equality, at least in the sphere of music, with the most powerful people of his time. He was highly respected by nobles who were often very knowledgeable in music. Many of his friends and wealthy patrons were remarkably tolerant of his moods and tempers, and they were ready to help him in every way they could.
In 1805 Russia’s ambassador to Vienna, Prince Andreas Razumovsky, commissioned Beethoven to write a set of three string quartets incorporating music from Razumovsky’s native Russia. Charming and highly educated, Razumovsky was an excellent violinist and the founder of the Schuppanzigh Quartet, the first independent highly professional string quartet of its time.
The three quartets of Op. 59 – Nos. 1, 2, and 3 – were completed by September 1806 and the premieres were given in February 1807. The public reaction to the group was the harshest Beethoven had ever received. One critic wrote that the audience laughed and were convinced that Beethoven was playing a joke.
Of the Op. 59 trilogy, String Quartet in E Minor, No.2 is probably programmed least often, but this work has much appeal, lyricism and musical worth.
Drama starts with the opening where we hear two sharp chords followed by a tense measure of silence. This pattern is repeated during the several interwoven themes in this first movement. Carl Czerny wrote of the second movement, Adagio molto, that the composer at this point was contemplating the starry sky and thinking of the music of the spheres. This section is marked “to be played with great feeling.”
The Allegretto is a graceful but quirky movement with eccentric rhythmic patterns. Into this Beethoven inserts the famous Russian folk tune, “Slava Bogu ne nebe Slava!” (“Glory to God in the Heaven, Glory!”). The Finale: Presto gives an energetic conclusion, once described as “a furious gallop on horseback.” At the very end Beethoven picks up the tempo for a spectacular dash to the final chords.
Program Notes by Joella Utley