Voxare String Quartet

Emily Ondracek-Peterson, violin
Galina Zhdanova,
Erik Peterson,
Adrian Daurov,

Sunday, July 14, 2013, 4 pm

“Kindred Spirits”


Simple Symphony, Op. 4 (1933–1934)
Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
(Version for string quartet)

Boisterous Bourrée
Playful Pizzicato
Sentimental Saraband
Frolicsome Finale

String Quartet No. 4 (1991)
Ned Rorem (b. 1923)
(In honor of the composer's 90th birthday)

Ugly and relentless
Infinitely tender
Very fast
Absolutely strict
Very fast
Cold and hot
Like the wind
Infinitely tender


String Quartet No. 3 in E Flat Minor, Op. 30 (1877)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Andante sostenuto — Allegro moderato — Andante sostenuto
Allegretto vivo e scherzando
Andante funebre e doloroso, ma con moto
Finale: Allegro non troppo e risoluto

next week

Saturday, July 20, 11 am | Young People's Concert: Ilya Yakushev, piano
Admission is free for all young people under 16.
These wonderful concerts, long a Maverick tradition,
are designed for enjoyment by school-age children. Adults pay $5 each.

Sunday, July 21, 4 pm:
Jupiter String Quartet with Ilya Yakushev, piano
Music of Haydn, Brahms, and Britten, and Frank Bridge’s Piano Quintet in D Minor (1905)



Program Notes © 2013 by Miriam Villchur Berg*


“The gifted Voxare String Quartet” (The New York Times) formed in 2008 and has since received critical praise for its inventive programming, technical prowess, attention to detail, and passionate performances. Voxare is among the most acclaimed and innovative young string quartets in the United States, and their performances have included appearances at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic, the Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. Voxare has had performing residences at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, where its “DIG IT! New Music” series at Teachers College brought together emerging and established American composers. They have been the quartet-in-residence at New York’s Bargemusic, and their performances have been featured on WNYC and WQXR.

In addition to the standard repertoire, Voxare takes an active role in presenting and encouraging interest in contemporary music, and often works with leading composers, such as Pulitzer Prize winners Ned Rorem and David Del Tredici. The quartet earned Chamber Music America’s 2010 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, and its debut CD, featuring the music of Daron Hagen, will be released by Naxos in 2013. Voxare was quartet-in-residence at the 2010 International Computer Music Conference, and works regularly with composers and researchers in studying electro-acoustic music. Also in 2010, Voxare presented a three-day festival, “Mostly Riley,” to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of composer Terry Riley at Bargemusic.

With a repertoire spanning five centuries, Voxare is not afraid to break down the boundaries of classical music. They have made and performed their own transcriptions of popular and rock music and often perform in alternative concert venues, presenting innovative concerts focused on unique and accessible presentations of contemporary chamber music while assimilating classical standards and popular music. Voxare can be found on the soundtracks of several films shown at festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca.

Individually, Voxare members have performed as soloists with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and as members of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. The four musicians have amassed a number of prizes at international competitions.

The members of the ensemble are often asked what Voxare means: “Voxare is our own creation, an imagined Latin infinitive of the root word vox, which can be translated as the following: voice, cry, call; accent, language; sound, tone; a saying, utterance. When choosing a name for our quartet, we felt an immediate attraction to it. We felt (and still do feel) a strong need to be different, to have a personal voice that stands out among other artists. To voice, to call, to utter—these are the aspirations of any artist. Our medium, sound, perhaps better than any other, allows the creator to commune directly with the recipient. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer stated that music, in part because of its freedom from the strictures of language, is the only art form that can directly speak to the ‘will.’ As artists, we were thrilled to find a name that embodies not only our goal of individuality, but also the potential communicative power at our disposal.”





This season, Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt has programmed a celebration of the works of Benjamin Britten, the great mid-twentieth century English musician renowned as a composer, pianist, and conductor. In an era when Schoenberg, Boulez, and John Cage were changing the definitions of musical structure and style, Britten found ways to be innovative while still remaining within the traditions of tonality. His operas, including Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw, are considered the finest English operas since those of Purcell in the seventeenth century. He composed major works in many genres—orchestral, choral, solo vocal, chamber, and film music, as well as music for children, including The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. In his birthplace in Suffolk, England, he founded and directed the Aldeburgh Festival, which continues to be a major international gathering of the finest musicians in the world.

After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Britten received a traveling scholarship and was planning to go to Vienna to study with the serialist composer Alban Berg. Britten’s family dissuaded him from that modernist path, and he relented, instead staying home and writing the Simple Symphony for string orchestra, played for us today in an arrangement for string quartet. The work is based on themes Britten composed between the ages of nine and twelve, and is dedicated to his childhood viola teacher, Audrey Alston (who also introduced him to his great mentor, the composer Frank Bridge).

The Boisterous Bourrée uses two contrasting themes—one proud and assertive, the other lyrical and gentle. Playful Pizzicato is a scherzo and trio played on plucked strings throughout. The viola and the cello strum chords to accompany the opening of the central trio, giving it a folk flavor. A surprisingly mature song makes up the Sentimental Saraband, first played in minor as a lament, and then in major as a wistful ballad. The work ends with the Frolicsome Finale, a fast-paced romp with an exciting finish.

Ned Rorem is one of the most celebrated living American composers. When Rorem was ten years old, his piano teacher introduced him to the music of Debussy and Ravel—an experience that, he said, changed his life forever. He spent many years in Paris, mingling with leading figures of postwar Europe. Although his catalog includes chamber works as well, he is best known for his orchestral works, his art songs, and his diaries.

His String Quartet No. 4 is performed here today in honor of the composer’s ninetieth birthday. Rorem wrote these notes for the piece: “Composers sometimes seek to conjoin their muse with other arts—with the poetry of song, for instance, or more exceptionally with the visual, by representing through sound their special Pictures at an Exhibition. I too have done so, giving graphic titles (Eagles, Sunday Morning, Pilgrims), complete with literary footnotes, to nonvocal compositions. Since music is the one art without provable meaning, a composer cannot expect you to know that his piece is about the sea, or hell, or a summer garden, or even about such generalities as love and weather, much less knives and forks, unless he tells you so in words.

“Thus it was with the Fourth String Quartet. The ten sections were (I persuaded myself) inspired by ten pictures by a certain powerful painter, each section titled after a specific canvas…. Now I find the device irrelevant, in that no music irrefutably depicts anything other than itself. Henceforth, listeners must make way for their own images.”

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first major Russian composer fully trained in Western European musical technique. The Russian nationalists considered him a sellout because of his adherence to Classical form; European music critics, on the other hand, thought his music too Russian, because of its folk tunes, ethnic-sounding melodies, and emotional expressiveness. Nevertheless, audiences loved him, and he was accorded a degree of worldwide fame and fortune rarely bestowed on a living composer. Benjamin Britten appreciated his music greatly—Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, performed Tchaikovsky songs together, and Britten studied the score of Sleeping Beauty while composing his own ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas.

After introductory chords, the String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat Minor, Op. 30, opens (Andante sostenuto) with a Russian melody over pizzicato (plucked) chords. The tune is then repeated by the cello, a pattern that imitates the strophic Russian folk songs that use repetition to build emotional intensity. The middle section (Allegro moderato) takes a second, more motivic theme, with a characteristic turn and dotted rhythms, and works it out in the Classical development style. The movement ends with a reprise of the melancholy opening tune.

A short scherzo (Allegro vivo e scherzando) provides a contrast, as fast chords create a feeling of tension. The central trio section is slower-moving and more melodic, after which the nervous fast chords return.

The third movement (Andante funebre e doloroso) is the heart of the quartet. Tchaikovsky dedicated this piece to the memory of Ferdinand Laub, the renowned first violinist of the Moscow String Quartet, the group that had premiered Tchaikovsky’s first two string quartets. Laub was beloved all over Europe, and his sudden death was a shock to Tchaikovsky. The dark opening chords are played in an exaggeration of the funeral-march rhythm. All the instruments stay in their lower ranges, and each plays a featured role, now playing the elegiac melodies, now sounding the single repeated note in the rhythm and style of a recitative. The different instrumental voices express the personal and individual nature of grief.

Tchaikovsky ends this memorial string quartet in the major, with a distinctly upbeat Allegro non troppo e risoluto—not too fast, and resolute. He tells his audience (and himself) that we must resign ourselves to the tragedies of life, including the loss of loved ones. Near the end, the dark pizzicato chords return as a momentary reminder of grief, after which the solid, positive cadence reaffirms that life goes on.

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