Jupiter String Quartet

Ilya Yakushev, piano

Nelson Lee, violin
Megan Freivogel, violin
Liz Freivogel, viola
Daniel McDonough, cello

Sunday, July 21, 2013, 4 pm

“Britten’s Mentor”

program

String Quartet No. 59 in G Minor, Op. 74, No. 3
“The Rider”
(1793)
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)

Allegro
Largo assai
Menuet: Allegretto & Trio
Finale: Allegro con brio

String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 51, No. 1 (1866–1873)
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Allegro
Romanze: Poco adagio
Allegretto molto moderato e comodo — Un poco piú animato
Allegro

intermission

Night Piece (Notturno) for piano solo (1963)
Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)

Piano Quintet in D Minor, H. 49 (1905)
Frank Bridge (1879–1941)

Adagio — Allegro moderato — Adagio e sostenuto
Adagio ma non troppo — Allegro con brio — Adagio ma non troppo
Allegro energico

next week

Saturday, July 27, 6:30 pm
Maverick's Chamber Orchestra Concert


Paul Appleby, tenor; The Aurea Ensemble,
Chris Turner and Nigel Gore, readers;
the Maverick Chamber Players, Alexander Platt, conductor

Benjamin Britten at Woodstock:
Music of Mozart, Purcell, Frank Bridge, and Britten;
poetry by W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender,
Christopher Isherwood, and Virginia Woolf;

Britten’s Les Illuminations for tenor and string orchestra, written in Woodstock in 1939

Sunday, July 28, 4 pm
The Escher String Quartet

Music of Elgar, Britten, Sir Harrison Birtwistle,
and Beethoven

 

 

 


LOGO
Program Notes © 2013 by Miriam Villchur Berg*

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

The Jupiter String Quartet, formed in 2001, is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (older sister of Meg), and cellist Daniel McDonough (husband of Meg, brother-in-law of Liz). The Jupiter serves as string-quartet-in-residence at the University of Illinois and has engaged in a multi-year residency at Atlanta's Spivey Hall, and the members of the quartet hold visiting faculty residencies at Oberlin and Adelphi.

The quartet concertizes across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Central and South America, and has played in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress in Washington, and Seoul’s Sejong Chamber Hall. The Jupiter has also been enthusiastically received at major music festivals, including Aspen, Caramoor, Menlo, Banff, Rockport, Skaneateles, Yellow Barn, and the Seoul Spring.

The Jupiters have received several chamber music honors. In 2008 they earned an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and Chamber Music America awarded them the 2007 Cleveland Quartet Award. Before that, the quartet won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition (where they also received the Székely Prize for best performance of a Beethoven quartet), and grand prize in the Fischoff Competition. From 2007 through 2010, the quartet was in residence at the Lincoln Center’s CMS Two, and in 2009 they received a grant from the Fromm Foundation to commission a new quartet by Dan Visconti for performance at Alice Tully Hall.

The Jupiter Quartet is named for the planet, which was the most prominent in the night sky at the time of the ensemble’s formation, and because the astrological symbol for Jupiter [jupiter symbol ] resembles the number four. The Jupiter’s members reside in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Winner of the 2005 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev has given solo recitals at the Bechstein Center in Berlin and Vienna’s Musikverein, and has toured Southeast Asia. In 2007, he performed Prokofiev’s first and fourth piano concertos at Davies Symphony Hall with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, performances that were included in the top ten classical music events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. He has performed in Glinka Philharmonic Hall (St. Petersburg), Victoria Concert Hall (Singapore), Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and Sejong Performing Arts Center (Seoul). He has played with the Kirov Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, the Syracuse Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, and others.Mr. Yakushev received his first award at age twelve in his native St. Petersburg. In 1998, he received the Award for Excellence in Performance, presented to him by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation in Moscow. Most recently, Mr. Yakushev received the Gawon International Music Society Award in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr. Yakushev attended the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music in St. Petersburg, and subsequently came to New York to attend Mannes College of Music, where he studied with legendary pianist Vladimir Feltsman. Since 2002, Mr. Yakushev has served as executive director of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at  Mannes College.

 


 


 


ABOUT THE MUSIC

When his longtime employer Prince Esterházy died in 1790, Joseph Haydn was free to travel and to enjoy his reputation as the elder statesman of European music. He began writing with the concert halls of London in mind, using more overtly dramatic musical techniques rather than relying on subtleties that might have been obvious only to musical cognoscenti.

The String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 74, No. 3, is known as the “Rider” Quartet because of galloping rhythms in the first and last movements. The first movement (Allegro) opens with a forceful unison. A minor-key theme is contrasted with a more lighthearted major-key second subject. The unusual triple meter (i.e., 3/4 time) is further emphasized by triplets that subdivide each beat into three, as well.

The slow movement (Largo assai) presents a beautiful, aria-like melody. Without neglecting or oversimplifying the thematic development, Haydn strives to make the music accessible, rather than esoteric. The key change from G minor to E major for this movement is an unusual and innovative gesture.

In the minuet (Allegretto), gentle, legato duets imitate one another to create an almost polyphonic texture. The Trio section takes us back into the minor mode, and the flowing dance tune returns with the repeat of the Menuetto.

At times in the finale (Allegro con brio), the lower voices play on the beat while the violin takes the offbeat; in other places, the accompaniment itself is syncopated. The movement is filled with rhythmic intensity, and it is easy to see where the quartet got its equestrian nickname.

Brahms is known for his cyclic structure and thematic economy—he tended to use versions of the same motifs deployed, arranged, varied, and restructured, as unifying devices throughout a larger work. In the String Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 51, No. 1, the first movement (Allegro) opens with a rising arpeggio that starts with the first three notes of the C-minor scale (C – D – E flat). Those three notes, as well as the rising chord, are used throughout the quartet. The throbbing tremolo accompaniment also becomes a motif throughout the piece. As a counterpart to the driving arpeggio, the movement ends with a calm, slow, descending line that takes the chord back down to the root.

The slow movement (Romanze: Poco adagio) starts with the same rising notes with the second and third repeated, and changed to major (C – D-D – E-E). This new melody and rhythm are developed into a haunting ballad.

The scherzo (Allegretto molto moderato e comodo—moderately fast and comfortable) is unusual since it uses a duple (i.e., 4/4) meter. Brahms again employs the theme from the first movement, this time turned upside down. The Trio section, following the more normal pattern of a 3/4 meter, is a ländler, an Austrian folk dance like a country waltz.

The Finale (Allegro) gathers all the melodic and rhythmic motifs from the various movements and recombines them. The first notes are nearly the same as those that started the work, but played high, loud, and in unison. A driving rhythm moves the piece forward to its dramatic conclusion.

Benjamin Britten is the featured composer this year at Maverick, in honor of the centennial of his birth. He was a formidable pianist, but rarely wrote for solo piano. He composed the Night Piece (Notturno) as a test piece for the first Leeds Piano Competition. Nocturnes can be dreamy and wistful, or full of foreboding—two sides of our feelings about the nighttime. Britten’s work partakes of both qualities, sometimes even within a single phrase.

Frank Bridge was extremely important to Benjamin Britten. Britten’s childhood viola teacher, Audrey Alston, took young Benjamin to the Norwich Festival, where he heard Frank Bridge’s The Sea. Later Britten wrote that he was “knocked sideways” by it. Alston knew Bridge well (he was a world-renowned violist as well as a composer and conductor), and showed him Britten’s compositions. Bridge agreed to teach the boy, who was thirteen at the time, and Britten became Bridge’s only pupil for the next three years.

As a teacher of composition, Bridge was rigorous, never allowing Britten to do anything sloppy or amateurish. Bridge would play young Benjamin’s compositions on the piano and ask him whether the music he had written was truly portraying his musical ideas. As Britten said later, “He taught me to take infinite trouble to get every note quite right.” Bridge saw Britten off when he left for the United States in 1939, and gave him his valuable old viola. He died two years later, before Britten returned to England.

As a composer, Bridge started as a Late Romantic and was heavily influenced by Brahms, but later in life he became more musically adventurous. The public was not ready to accept his avant-garde style after the Great War, and his reputation suffered. Frank Bridge had given Britten the solid musical education he needed, and when Britten founded the Aldeburgh Festival, he was able to return the favor by reviving interest in his mentor. Bridge is now acknowledged as a major British composer.

The Piano Quintet in D Minor comes from Bridge’s early period. As the Adagio begins, the main theme rises from the depths, accompanied by low, dark piano rumblings. The Allegro moderato develops the theme, and then the piano introduces the complementary second theme—this one in major, lighter in mood, and descending from on high. The texture is full, with the piano often playing soloist against the string ensemble.

At the opening of the middle movement (Adagio ma non troppo), we hear the influence of Brahms—a song without words for the theme, accompanied by lush harmonies. The reverie is interrupted by a dancing staccato figure (Allegro con brio) for the central section. The adagio returns to complete the ABA format.

The finale (Allegro energico) starts with a grand, full-textured statement. The second theme is related to the light theme from the first movement, with a spare texture, a major key, and a lyrical song contour. The movement builds, through alternating powerful and gentle passages, to an exciting ending.

All program notes are copyright Miriam Villchur Berg. It is permissible to quote short excerpts for reviews. For permission to quote more extensive portions, or to copy,  publish, or make other use of these program notes, please contact her at miriam@hvc.rr.com Program Notes © 2013 by Miriam Villchur Berg