Tryon Concert Association Presents
Omer String Quartet
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Tryon Concert Association dedicates its 65th anniversary season to the memory of Joella Utley. Joella was a dedicated member of the board, generous benefactor, esteemed colleague, exemplar in the writing
of program notes, and good friend.
String Quartet Op. 20 No. 3 in G Minor
I. Allegro con Spirito
II. Minuetto – Allegretto
III. Poco Adagio
IV. Finale – Allegro Molto
Yiddishbbuk: Inscriptions for String Quartet
1.A. D.W. 1932-1944
1.B. F.B. 1930-1944
1.C. T.K. 1934-1943
2. I.B.S. 1904-1991
3. L.B. 1918-1990
String Quartet Op. 67 No. 3 in B-flat Major
III. Agitato Allegretto non troppo
IV. Poco Allegretto con Variazioni
Omer String Quartet appears by arrangement with Young Concert Artists, Inc. www.yca.org
A note on applause: The spirit and beauty of the music will be enhanced for both performers and audience by saving your applause until the completion of the last movement of each composition.
Note on the Artists
The Omer Quartet, made up of accomplished young musicians, has won numerous awards and prizes. In 2017, the group won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and currently holds the Helen F. Whitaker Chamber Music Chair of Young Concert Artists. The ensemble also won the Tryon Concert Association Prize, which has brought them to Tryon. The four musicians met as students at the Cleveland Institute of Music and have come into prominence since winning the Grand Prize and gold medal at the Fischoff National Competition. They have performed in summer festivals in Vail, Princeton, Caroga Lake, Honest Brook, and Tannery Pond and, during the season, in venues across the United States, as well as in Abu Dhabi. The group is also noted for its commitment to interactive programs and collaborations to promote community well-being. TCA is pleased that the artists are participating in A-OK (Arts Outreach for Kids) here in Tryon. Violinist Mason Yu began studying violin at the age of seven, inspired by hearing a violinist warm up before playing a Mozart concerto. Since then he has been a featured soloist of the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, and the Cleveland Philharmonia. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and graduate degrees from the New England Conservatory. Currently he is working for a Doctor of Music degree at the University of Maryland. His non-musical pursuits include Music for Food and the Non-Profit Leadership program. Erica Tursi, also a violinist, began her studies when, at age eight, she watched a violinist perform on television. She has since performed in venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institute, and Severance Hall and has been a featured soloist with many distinguished American orchestras. As a devotee of chamber music, Tursi enjoys the musical conversation and comradery among ensemble colleagues. She holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and has pursued further graduate studies at the New England Conservatory. Dedicated to furthering classical music, she has performed outreach concerts in the New York area as a Gluck Community service fellow. Violist Jinsun Hong began her studies at a young age in Korea. She performed in the Miyazaki International Music Festival in 2006 and has traveled to Mongolia, performing for schools and communities in a string quartet with Midori. Since then, she attended the Yellow Barn Summer Chamber Music Festival, the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove, the Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop, and the Taos Chamber Music Festival. Hong is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, has received graduate diplomas from the New England Conservatory, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Maryland. Alex Cox came to the cello when he was forced to play one by his school music teacher because no one else would. Since that day, he has appeared as a soloist with Michael Tilson Thomas, Keith Lockhart, and James Feddeck and with the New World Symphony, Boston Pops, and the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra. He has won several important prizes, including the Cleveland Institute of Music concerto competition, and has served as co-principal cellist of the Juilliard Orchestra. Having earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Masters of Music from The Juilliard School, he is now working on a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Maryland.
Notes on the Program
String Quartet Op. 20 No. 3 in G Minor
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Mozart wrote of Haydn that he “could amuse, shock, arouse laughter and deep emotion as no other.” Although Mozart and Beethoven were considered the two foremost composers of the Classical era, Haydn excelled at composing quartets—over sixty-eight of them, most of which are considered masterpieces. The six quartets of Op. 20 set the four-movement structure of the string quartet and gave equal voice to all four instruments: two violins, viola, and cello. Haydn synthesized “the very pinnacle of Baroque-era counterpoint with his distinctive wit, whimsy, pathos, and groundbreaking use of silence” (St. Lawrence String Quartet).
No. 3 reflects the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) phase in Haydn’s development, as evidenced by a more pronounced emphasis on emotional expressiveness. The first movement is serious, even mysterious, in character, displaying the first subject in quick succession from G minor to the parallel key of B-flat major. Sudden silences and quick stops characterize the movement. An even more somber second movement, the Minuetto, is completely removed from the traditional and graceful style of the French dance. There are phrases of irregular length and a beautiful trio section in which lyrical counterpoint in the lower three instruments contrasts with the delicacy of the first violin’s eighth-notes. Although the tension is relieved somewhat in the shift to E-flat major with a sweet and tender modulation, the movement remains tragic and passionate.
The third movement is slow and stately. There is the rising figure of the first violin accompanied by simple chords and then a tender, twisting line of sixteenth-notes on the cello, with the accompaniment in the high strings. Finally, the last movement, again in G minor, is spirited with moments of gaiety and whimsy. Once again there are sudden stops, often dramatic and sometimes humorous. When the pianissimo of the ending is reached, one has the impression of having witnessed an eerie spectacle.
Yiddishbbuk: Inscriptions for String Quartet
Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960)
Osvaldo Golijov was born in Argentina to an immigrant family from Eastern Europe. Surrounded by classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the “new tango” of Astor Piazzolla, Golijov was inspired to combine diverse musical styles in his compositions. His work is performed regularly by chamber ensembles, soloists, and symphony orchestras. He won a GRAMMY in 2006 for his opera Ainadamar, based on the life of Federico García Lorca, and has been composer-in-residence at numerous music festivals. Currently he is Loyola Professor of Music at College of the Holy Cross and was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.
Yiddishbbuk was written for the St. Lawrence String Quartet and debuted at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in 1992. Golijov contrived the fiction of ascribing to Franz Kafka certain lines said to be derived from apocryphal psalms. The line “A broken song played on a shattered cymbalon,” Golijov’s own words, informs the composition by suggesting the tragedy and triumph of the 20th century Jewish experience. Listeners will hear chaotic glissandi and fervid runs in this haunting and unnerving work.
The first movement is dedicated to three children who perished at Terezin. Doris Weiserova, Frantisek Bass, and Tomas Kauders created poems and drawings that reflected their lives in the Nazi internment camp. The tenderness of their small works of art inspired the composer to create another misattributed line: “No one sings as purely as those who are in the deepest hell.” This movement begins with a haunting motif that attempts, with plunking and thudding strings, to recreate the “broken song.” A thread of melody appears mid-movement but is then violently broken off by the repetitively harsh string playing.
The second movement is dedicated to Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Polish-American writer whose Yiddish literature won him the Nobel Prize in 1978. Singer held fast to his Eastern European roots in works that celebrated both the mundane and mystical aspects of traditional Jewish life, and it is that aspect of his work that Golijov attempts to portray in his music. He uses an aggressive vibrato, for example, to suggest the “flickering of Jewish candles” (Golijov). The music in this movement reflects the essence of Singer’s work, “a cosmic architecture of demons and spirits and mystical beings” (Richard Byrne).
The final movement, dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, takes as its theme the spirituality that Bernstein found and celebrated in the works of another Jewish composer, Gustav Mahler. This is a different Bernstein from the one who wrote Candide and West Side Story; this Bernstein is the champion of the deep and meditative qualities of Mahler’s music, the Bernstein who brought Mahler’s work to new generations of music lovers. The broken cymbalon heard in the first movement reappears here, reminding listeners of Golijov’s message: despite tragedy, Jewish life and art have endured.
String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Johannes Brahms, the great Romantic composer, conductor, and pianist, continued the tradition of German music begun by Bach and Beethoven and was frequently considered the third “B” of the “Three B’s.” He was known to have spent many years drafting and revising his earlier works, but he composed this third and last string quartet in just one year, 1876, during an extended holiday near Heidelberg. Brahms enjoyed his time away from Vienna, spent days with friends, worked on several compositions, and wrote to his stepmother, that “life is really quite happy.” Emblematic of his pleasure in living and confidence in mastering this genre, the string quartet is bright and sunny as well as flawlessly crafted.
The opening movement, in sonata form, incorporates three thematic elements: the hunting horn sounded by the second violin and viola, a melody played by the middle instruments below rustling figurations in the first violin, and a peasant dance that juxtaposes duple-meter rhythms (two beats to the bar) with the 6/8 phrases of the preceding music. In the development section the two meters are briefly superimposed, and each of the three themes is rounded out in the recapitulation.
The Andante in F major serves as the slow movement and contains two measures of 5/4 time, unusual for Brahms. Its three-part form allowed Brahms to write lyrical and luxuriant music at the beginning and end of the movement while placing more energetic music in the middle.
The third movement, the Agitato, although written in the structure of a scherzo, appears more like a nostalgic intermezzo in its wistful expression. Brahms described it as “the tenderest and most impassioned movement” he had ever written. The lead is taken throughout by the husky-voiced (unmuted) viola, while the violins and cello surround it with their muted sonorities.
The finale, Poco Allegretto, is a set of eight variations and coda based on the theme announced at the beginning by the violin. In the seventh variation, the listener hears the hunting horn from the first movement in the formal and harmonic supports of the finale’s theme. Many critics contend that this final movement of theme and variations is the glory of the composition.
Program Notes by Anne De Sutter